Rise of the Global Middle Class




The fall of the berlin wall in the autumn of 1989 remains the biggest political event to take place in recent memory,  not only did it mark the end of the cold war, it went onto provide the catalyst for the sweeping political and economic changes that followed in the aftermath – simultaneously, reshaping the world as we now know it. It was simply a watershed moment for humanity – a respite from an extensive period of global antagonism and clandestine operations which were exacerbated by a looming shadow cast by the threat of nuclear arms. Although, much is written about the political repercussions that would ensue following the events on November 9th 1989 for both Europe and the Far East, it was however, the economic dimension which is proved to be the most important factor. Global events over the last 25 years can attest to that. We have witnessed economic freedom far outpace any sense of political freedom; the rise of laissez-faire politics has provided the foundation for the framework of economic liberalization which undermines political and human rights, in both the global north and south comparatively.

However, the biggest winners of such economic policies were the aspiring entrepreneurs – who previously bound by totalitarian repressive regimes were finally freed from their shackles. It was a time of unquestionable optimism, leading to an era of unrivalled economic prosperity and eventually paving the way for many of today’s most powerful, richest individuals and global corporations. Although, the consequence of capitalist expansion proceeded to create a visible disparity in terms of wealth in societies – many in societies falling victim to the harsh competitive, self-interested environment created by capitalism. But it would simply be facile to portray a selective business community as the only beneficiaries of newfound economic freedoms. Increased development in areas of education, gender equality and employment opportunities has similarly resulted in the booming growth of middle class populations across territories of the former soviet-bloc. One particular continent of the globe that has enjoyed more positive development than any other in terms of trade, investment and technological advancement however is Asia. Such development has resulted in a boom in middle class families across Asia. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in China.

China’s middle class alone account for roughly 25% of its entire population. This growth has been linked with the increased number of business opportunities as a result of major western investment. It must be pointed out that China has the largest population in the world and is closely followed by India; both set to overtake the US’s position as the biggest global economies in the near future. The link between population size and economic growth has certainly not gone unnoticed, on the contrary it has become somewhat of a convention amongst economists who use it as a core element of contemporary policy formation. Comparatively, when we consider declining trends in middle class populations across Europe and the US; increasingly linked with stagnant birth rates, ageing populations and an economic recession, we are beginning to reveal cracks in the system which in truth have long been in the making and is simply being accelerated through the process of globalization. But, population numbers is only one factor that contributes to economic growth in the global economy; liberal trade laws, flexible labour markets, weak trade unions, lowly national wage levels and an overabundance in low skilled labour is characteristic of the winning formula needed to flourish in our contemporary political economy. China and other emerging economies is representative of such practices and this explains why they are such lucrative markets for western investment and multinational corporations. The irony is that multinationals whether unintentionally or not are responsible in the rise of China and others. A lot is written about the practices of exploitation and poverty created by multinationals – but they also contribute in creating wealth by continually employing a growing number of educated young people and paying them at rates beyond national levels, at the same time providing technological expertise and satisfying consumer demand for goods. With this in mind, it is therefore hard not to put forward the growing middle classes around the world as the real winners in the post-cold war political economy.

Mohamed  Hussein


One thought on “Rise of the Global Middle Class

  1. I agree with you – China is now the second largest economy in the world and it is growing. It is sad to see the economy grow while still a considerable amount of the chinese population live in poverty and slum areas. The divide between rich and poor gets bigger as the middle class and elite gain all the economic privileges and the poor are held down by the extremely unfair forces of capitalism and globalisation.

    Anette Stepanoski

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