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The Emerging New Middle Class and the Rule of Law in China


This article attempts to bring classes back into empirical analyses of access to civil and administrative justice, focusing on the linkage between the emergence of the new middle class and legal developments in China. We define six classes, the elite class, the old middle class, the new middle class, the self-employed getihu, the working class, and farmers, and then examine class differentials in choosing legal resolutions to civil and administrative disputes, both actual and hypothetical ones. Based on the analysis of data from a national representative survey in 2005, we show that the elite and the new middle classes are more likely than the other classes to prefer the law to other forms of resolutions if they were to encounter any disputes; but after controlling for the economic and cultural resources they can have access to, class differentials disappear to a large extent, but the urban-rural divide remains. Among those who are experiencing civil disputes, the elite and the new middle class are also more likely to take legal action. The ruling elites, in alliance with the new middle class, could be the major political agents in promoting the rule of law in China.

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