China’s Age of Abundance: Origins, Ascendance, and Aftermath



China’s integration into the global economy has created one of the most transformative economic miracles in human history. China is now basking under an age of abundance. This talk traces the origins of this transformation, summarizes the paths of China’s rise to material abundance using measures of consumption, and revisits its underlying driving forces. China’s ascendance was in essence an industrialization process with special Chinese characteristics, driven largely by a healthy and literate population living under a social arrangement of urban-rural divide, an arrangement that made China’s good labor cheap. The surplus created during this age of abundance has shown signs of depleting and the Chinese state is facing increasing fiscal challenges as this age nears its end. Rapid population aging with Chinese characteristics, persistent inequalities, and a return to political rigidity are among the major headwinds that are likely to accelerate the end of this era.


Wang Feng is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. He is also an invited professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Professor Wang is a widely-recognized expert on China’s social and demographic change and on comparative demographic and social history. He is the author of about a dozen books and more than a hundred articles in professional journals, books, and other media outlets. His work and views have appeared frequently in major global media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Guardian, Economist, NPR, CNN, BBC, and others.

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