The term ‘elite’ refers to the wealthiest, extremely powerful, and best trained or educated societal group (Cambridge Dictionary, 2020). According to Korom (2015), Vilfredo Pareto introduced the term (elite) and it became part of social sciences vocabulary towards the close of the 19th century. Pareto and colleagues established the classic elite philosophies to oppose the claim by Marxist that a known proletarian scheme would result in democratization.

Elite theorem postulates that a minority ruling class would offer better organization than the large majority. Korom (2015) argued that even in modern democracies, the reproduction of economic social grouping results in the establishment of one dominant class. Maloy (2015) further expounded the topic on the elite theory stating that it refers to a situation in which a small subset group handles the affairs of the community.

The author also introduced the inevitability of elitism saying that it began during ancient times and lived through medieval to the start of modern politics when ordinary/democratic people were not allowed to rule. In his article, Maloy (2015) linked the English word ‘elite’ to the French term ‘élite’ meaning “chosen” or “elect.” This research focuses on Chinese elites to determine the socio-economic and business culture of this group of individuals.

1.1. Background

By the time the Cultural Revolution ended in China, poverty was equally distributed in the country. Major transformations within Chinese society, therefore, began with efforts of Deng Xiaoping (in 1978) that laid the foundation for economic development. Today, however, Salomatina (2018) reported that China has a place among the highly unequal societies worldwide. The country’s Gini coefficient was 0.456 in 2016 and it had 76 individuals out of 195 newcomers joining the record of wealthiest persons in the world.

In the same year, China had 319 billionaires. It won a second position after the United States. Moreover, the number of millionaires exceeded a million as the figures continued to expand. Referring to McKinsey’s projections, Salomatina (2018) indicated that approximately 550 million individuals would belong to the Chinese middle class come 2022. This points to a potential rise in consumer spending. Growth in the purchasing power of the residents implies that the Chinese will remold the world economy and control the global consumption pattern.

McKinsey & Company (2019) again predicted that up to 160 million Chinese tourists would make outbound trips by the year 2020 and their spending would rise by 6.1% in a number of years. The main reason behind this growth would be the expansion of the upper-middle-class that is expected to witness a yearly growth rate of 28% beginning 2018 up to 2025. As a result, there should be about 350 million households in China with a monthly income of $2,600 to $3,900. At the same time, the richest households with a monthly income exceeding $3,900 would go close to tripling at 65 million within this period. 70% would engage in overseas luxury spending.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Elites are not only super-rich but also very influential members of society. As a powerful group, the elite often comprises the leadership team in major organizations and even at stage level. Tackett (2014) described the political elite within the Tang dynasty and how their system of governance contributed to the loss of China’s medieval aristocracy. Moreover, as a group of the richest individuals, the elites determine the nature of goods and services offered in the market (Salomatina, 2018). Businesses are after maximizing profits and would provide items that have reliable clientele.

Therefore, the elites shape the market trends as what they demand is availed in large quantities. Based on these reasons, it is important to understand the character and habits of elites to understand how they reason and how their actions will impact the society at large.  Such a study is particularly important at this time when the number of elite households continues to rise because this means that the influence of elites is increasing as well.

1.3 Study Objectives

The main purpose of this research is to describe the features of China’s elites based on their behavior and influence on society. The two specific areas of focus include:

i. To identify and discuss the aspects of elites’ business habits, norms, and traditions

ii. To describe factors shaping the socio-economic advancement of Chinese elites

1.4 Significance of the Study 

The research adds to previous studies that either investigated the Chinese elites’ business culture or their socio-economic development or both. It enables the audience to understand the key roles elites play in the society like acting as rulers (Tackett, 2014) and influencing the demand and supply of consumables (Salomatina, 2018). In general, the research improves understanding of Chinese elites by explaining their usual behavior, habits, interest, and preferences, among others. Readers will learn, for example, how elites in China select the schools to take their children, destinations for overseas tours, shopping places, and countries for higher education. For individuals with interest in studying the social, cultural, and economic growth of various groups in the society, the research identifies the appropriate theoretical models for analyzing these features.



This section presents the theories that guided the selection of materials that are relevant to the present research. The first part describes the theoretical framework giving a detailed account of the three theories applied in the study. The next part comprises the previous research work that examined either the business culture or socio-economic development of China’s elites.

2.1 Theoretical Framework

Three theoretical models informed the selection of data collection materials and analysis of the gathered details. The theories are as follows:

a. Actor-System-Dynamic (ASD) Theory

ASD theory proved relevant to this study because it explains the evolution, functioning, and interaction of socio-economic systems (Burns & DeVillé, 2017). Its concepts aided the analysis of the socio-economic development of Chinese elites. ASD conceptualizes humans as factors and systems in studying their dynamics and relationships (Burns & DeVillé, 2017). First, the theory portrays people as creative and capable of transforming themselves. Secondly, it postulates that human behavior is shaped by institutional and cultural aspects.

The result is an environment in which people develop and share rules. Third, interaction systems are dictated by the context (culture and institutions) and material systems that promote, limit, and affect activities of humans. Next, ASD categorizes social systems into multiple levels (hierarchies) in which processes of higher interaction levels decide the parameters and roles of lower ones.

Social systems within ASD are as well capable of interacting with social and material environments, and through such interactions, they achieve transformation and new properties that facilitate their evolution. Also, the ASD viewpoint comprises sophisticated configurations defined by tensions due to differences in rule regimes, interests, and power struggles. Lastly, the system of rules in ASD result from human interactions or are selectively constructed and regulated by agents in ecological and physical contexts.

As explained by Burns and DeVillé (2017), ASD is suitable for study areas in which capitalism is prevalent. The theoretical framework also assists with the examination of struggles and conflicts in various sectors. Besides, issues such as conflict and power struggles affect socio-economic systems. Socio-economic growth is in itself continually uneven, characterized by wealth and poverty of sectors, nations, and regions.

b. Theory of Conspicuous Consumption

It helped to evaluate and explain the business culture of China’s elites. Thorstein Veblen introduced this theory in 1899. Veblen (1994) viewed conspicuous consumption as a noticeable display of wealth for the purpose of building reputation and status in society. Although the change in consumption items has occurred over time, the possessions of particular products for showy purpose remains. Capitalism is one reason for this type of consumption and another is for self-definition or identification.

The theory of conspicuous consumption aided understanding of the development of economic markets and the reason why modern society concentrates on material possessions. Veblen (1994) established a direct connection between the material possessions of a person and their status in society. This includes the lavish purchase of luxury items such as jewelry. Ownership of luxury goods gives a personal superiority over others. Veblen also noted that advertising has a substantial function in promoting conspicuous purchases.

In other words, many individuals tend to associate themselves with a company that advertises its products to establish a positive image of themselves.  Veblen (1994) argued that recognition and attainment of higher social status are the main reason people consume conspicuously. He also linked these factors to the socioeconomic class and culture of consumers. It defines the individual and public perception of the consumer.

c. Bourdieu’s Theory of Habitus

This is another theory that enabled the examination of the business values of China’s elites. The theoretical framework explains the symbolic implications, objectives, and structure of consumption. Power (1999) illustrated that Bourdieu’s theory aims to understand power relations and get everyday life’s logic. Habitus is the physical manifestation of cultural capital and outcomes of life encounters shown in skills, character, and habits. It is crucial for the successful navigation of social contexts.

In this theory, capital has forms such as economic, social, symbolic, and cultural. It also states that class, culture, ethnicity, era, gender, and education directly determine daily practices (habitus) of an individual. According to this theory, a person’s practice is the outcome of the interaction between his/her habitus and various types of capital in a field of action.

2.2 Previous Studies

The studies in this section are categorized into business culture and socio-economic development based on the area they covered.

Business Culture

The first study reviewed to understand the business culture of Chinese elites was conducted by Salomatina (2018) who noted a significant shift in the trend of the spending behavior of elites in China. The researcher argued that the new trend indicated the interest of Chinese elites in things such as debutante balls, British teatime, etiquette learning, boarding school education, and immigrating to Britain. Salomatina linked this style of consumption to the inclination towards adoption of the aristocratic way of life depicted in popular British TV shows, mass media, and novels of the classical period.

The research adopted a secondary approach whereby it concentrated on gathering data from anthropological studies, documentaries, and news. It also comprised the interviewing of Chinese elites. Habitus theory of Bourdieu was the primary tool for analysis in explaining the phenomenon. Given that the entire population in China shared class status four decades ago, the research argued that Chinese elites pursued a new habitus (the aristocratic level).

The claim could be explained by the elites’ liking for learning in British boarding schools and the nature of transformations in their lifestyles. Salomatina’s research is important to the current study because it recognizes the existence of elites in China and explains how their business culture differentiates them from the rest of the population. It guided the identification of factors that qualify a person to the elite class in China.

The second study is by Jin, Wang, Wang, Li, and Deng (2015) that noted an attractive trend in what Chinese elites purchase and thought that such conspicuous consumption had value. The researchers explored the Thorstein Veblen socially contingent expenditure theory, launched in economic literature in 1899. The study added to the scarce literature that used this theory by assessing the theorist’s speculations on consumers in the transitional economic situation in China. A sample of 1,021 was utilized with three hypotheses sets.

Findings confirmed Veblen’s postulation that conspicuous consumption is primarily motivated by a search for social status and enhancement of position. The study concluded that due to the growth of per capita earnings in China and the development of a social class of elites, conspicuous spending has successfully taken the place of traditional regard for modesty and thriftiness towards social identification and fulfillment of individual potential. Similar to the study by Salomatina (2018), Jin et al. acknowledge the presence of elites in China and also show that individuals have unique consumption trends. This study is thus essential in identifying the business characteristics of Chinese elites.

The investigation by Byun, Long, and Mann (2020) that examined the predictors and direction of liking for brand prominence for Chinese little emperors in the United States is also crucial. The study used an online survey to test the model it proposed using a convenience sample comprising this category of Chinese. Concerning preference for luxury goods (fashion bags), the study discovered that the attitude was promoted by perceptions of uniqueness, social status, and conspicuous spending.

The three factors shaped the study participants’ perception of conspicuous and social value within luxury items. On the other hand, preference for prominent logos was not determined by a belief in unique value. Also, the choice of luxury goods was dictated by sociodemographic elements like age, gender, and the duration of stay in the United States. This study agrees with both Salomatina (2018) and Jin et al. (2015) that Chinese elites have an attraction for luxuries and goes future to identify the drivers of such preferences. The study is more useful as it traces the root cause of behavior seen among Chinese elites.

Yu (2014) reported a dramatic increase in luxury spending among Chinese. At the time when the report was written, the country’s luxury expenses had exceeded a quarter of global expenditure on the same, and its projections indicated a possibility of the same expanding to a third of worldwide luxury purchases in the near future. The research also indicated that 20% of consumers’ income in China goes to luxury goods whereas the global average consumption of the same is 4% of the overall household income.

In particular, Mainland China is number five among the ten largest markets for luxury items in the world.  This study is relevant to the current study because it defines the three factors that motivate individuals to buy luxuries. The first element is a symbolic motivation that applies to users who utilize expensive products to develop, establish, and communicate their self-identity. The symbolic stimulus also relates to Veblen’s conceptual model applied in the research by Jin et al. (2015). The theory explains luxury purchasers use the items as symbols of social status. The second is hedonic stimulation.

This elaborates that individuals spend money on luxuries because such products appeal to senses (touch, smell, taste, visual, and texture).  The third factor is for instrumental reasons. It relates to the quality that people believe luxury goods possess. The quality in this case relates to longevity or excellent performance. Yu (2014) further explained that these three elements associate closely with cultural, socio-demographic, and physical drivers (such as earnings, gender, collectivism, social dominance, and materialism). These factors define the business culture of the richest persons in China.

The last study in this section is key to this study because it examined the relevance of two theories in the present research. Its findings, therefore, show the potential outcomes of this study. Zhang (2018) utilized both the status search model by Veblen and cultural habitus and capital by Bourdieu’s in the investigation to find out if they relate to the livelihoods of post-socialist Chinese. Zhang argued that the two theoretical frameworks were Western-based and effective in the evaluation of socio-cultural situations.

The study found that Chinese in upper-middle-class were economical with money and had a glitzy conspicuous pattern of consumption. Such consumption behavior was influenced by the traditional culture of the Chinese. Concerning cultural capital and habitus, however, the research found that the behavior of luxury consumers in China differed from arguments in Bourdieu’s framework. In other words, consumers categorized as high cultural capital accepted materialism. Findings also showed that consumption among Chinese did not rely on habitus but cautious calculation.   

Socio-Economic Development

To understand the socio-economic development features of the richest citizens of China, some studies were reviewed. The first one was performed by Yang (2017) who argued that China adopted Western education to catch up with others that embraced modernization earlier. The first learning institution that showed a drift from the country’s cultural tradition was established in 1895. Further loss of indigenous culture has been facilitated by the running of universities founded on Confucian socio-cultural conditions. The models of such universities also imitate the European and North American encounters.

The institutions of higher learning are successful and the task that elites must now carry out is incorporate the Chinese traditions in their routine operations. The integration will not only make Chinese universities multi-cultural but also give the students the chance to experience the Western framework that dominates higher education globally. The study comprised a three-year project to study Peking and Tsinghua institutions of higher learning, in Beijing.

It attempted to provide an alternative way of looking at the encounter of China in higher education. The conclusion was that cultural integration into leading universities would enable the country to reconstruct their culture and use them alongside Western values. The desired result is an inter-civilizational environment. Yang’s study identifies one of the tools used by Chinese elites to achieve socio-cultural development.

Another research in this context is by Yang, Novokmet, and Milanovic (2019) that attributed the social and economic transitions in China within the last 40 years to human (elites) intervention. These researchers argued that previous studies prioritized economic changes but ignored social transformations. The inquiry employed harmonized household surveying approach foe periods 1988 to 2013 to identify the evolution in features of the richest individuals (5% of urban population). Results revealed that elites switched from the initial composition (high officials in government, workers, and clerical employees) observed in 1988 to a group of professionals and owners of both small and large businesses by 2013.

Further results pointed out the tremendous increase in elites’ educational level. The analysis reported that membership in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) contributed positively to the elites’ incomes and benefited, in particular, the owners of large businesses. The study reveals both the economic and social aspects of the development of Chinese elites and discusses the same in detail, thereby providing the information required for the present study.

Elites’ membership in CCP appears significant and is further explained by Gruin (2016). Gruin describes CCP as a distinctly irrepressible political framework that makes its way into the progressively rational private organizations (market) and the public ones (state). China’s political economy is thus growingly illiberal and marketized. Gruin purposed to develop a theory to explain that financial reforms in China were intended to control the socio-economic dilemma caused by CCP.

The review acknowledged that the financial system empowered CCP to contain or spread socio-economic unpredictability using reformation. The unique path followed by China in its financial reform, therefore, discloses how the system promoted economic growth style combining move towards capital accumulation with exclusive legacies of socio-political contexts of China (after 1989). This study uncovers further features of elites’ socio-economic growth pathways.

Still on social and economic pathways of development among the elites Huang (2005) analyzed to offer empirical design of social equality within Chinese universities. The target population comprised of students in higher learning institutions. Huang argued that students’ socio-economic settings determined the accessibility of higher education and later impacted their career choices. The researcher adopted an interdisciplinary theoretical model and review of previous research to convey the features of the universities’ social, historic, and economic environment. The inquiry involved surveying of six institutions of higher learning in Southwest China.

The questionnaires covered questions on the socio-economic background of participants, sources of finance for their studies, and desirable professions. Data analysis adopted factor analytical mechanisms and linear structural relations. Findings uncovered that students came from all the socio-economic classes but the majority belonged to high-income households. There was as well over-representation of learners from urban areas.

Results also showed that average expenditure on higher education was significantly above the average annual earnings of residents, including the urban dwellers. The study concluded that the manner in which socio-economic elements affect upward mobility of learners in China today differs from the ancient patterns and what Communist rulers worked for in the past two decades. The work expounds on the dominance of elites in a higher learning institution and how this influences their professionalism.

The role of higher education in social mobility is emphasized by Wu (2017) who used the Panel survey of Beijing College students to discover the social strata in higher education structure applied in China. The analysis drew from factors such as the family background of students, specific admission regulations, and high schools the learners came from.

Findings indicated that the socio-economic situation of families contributed to social advancement but enrollment in “key-point high school” and exceptional policies increased chances of going to a three-tier university. The reason is that the key-point high schools encourage learners to earn higher grades. On the other hand, special policies regarding admission favor students from honored families. Additionally, the learners in elite national universities have a higher potential of joining CCP than those in other learning institutions.


This section presents the approaches, techniques, and tools used to collect and analyze data to meet the study objectives. Research plan and strategies are defined under research design followed by the identification of the study population and sampling. Also included is a description of the data collection process and analysis of the gathered details. The chapter closes with an explanation of ethical rules considered throughout the research process.

3.1 Research Design

Design of the research is a blueprint of the study containing strategies, conceptual framework, study procedures, and tools. This study used the qualitative method because the research aimed to respond to inquiries on people’s experiences, perspectives, and interpretations of their daily living conditions (Hammarberg, Kirkman, and de Lacey, 2016). The qualitative approach focuses on the gathering of non-numerical data and often used to collect information on beliefs and attitudes of study participants.

This study involved an analysis of texts and documents such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and relevant reports to discover private knowledge. Qualitative research is exploratory in design, therefore, helping to uncover the underlying motivations, explanations, and perceptions of the elites in China to fully define their qualities. It enabled the revelation of opinions and thoughts allowing for an in-depth investigation of the research problem.    

The qualitative design enabled this research to capture attitude changes among the Chinese elites regarding the products they consume and how they relate with others in society. This was particularly made possible by the availability of data in several documents. Overall, the study design created an increasingly concentrated examination, sampling of Chinese elites, and selection of main points for collecting meaningful data. The process of data collection was faster compared to going to the field and it generally reduced associated research costs.   

3.2 Population and Sampling

In research, population refers to all components that have given features in which a research study is interested (Ames, Clenton & Lewin, 2019). The target population for this research comprised China’s elites. It is a group of wealthy and influential members of society whose tastes, preferences and opinions determine the direction of social, economic, and business aspects in an economy. Purposive sampling was thus the most appropriate in selecting this category of people.

As explained by Ames et al. (2019), this defined population became the basis for the application of research findings to related populations. The definition of the target population was as well an initiative intended to improve the validity of research findings. Given that this qualitative study employed an analysis of existing documents, the Chinese elites were studied as a group. This means that no samples were taken and the gathered data applied to every member of the elite class in China.

3.3 Data Collection

Qualitative data collection involved the extraction of relevant information from secondary sources. Such data had been gathered by other researchers to meet their own research objectives (Prada-Ramallal et al., 2018). The collected secondary data was mostly qualitative but numerical information that backed the arguments proved important. The study chose secondary data because the required information was readily available in several documents, which were as well open to access. To avoid skepticism of findings from the analysis of secondary data, the information was gathered from reputable and authentic sources.

The business, social, cultural, and economic data were gathered from McKinsey & Company (a management and consulting firm), Jing Daily (news site China’s luxury market), and University World News (online publication reporting on higher education and development news). Other sources included Bangkok Post (a daily newspaper), China Banking News (news site on Chinese finance and associated technology), PREC Edu Services (representative of universities in three continents), and Forbes (a business magazine). To be included, the new article or report must have discussed either the business culture, social and/or economic features of Chinese elites.

3.4 Data Analysis

Qualitative data analysis includes a range of procedures involving a shift from the collected qualitative information into an additional explanation to interpret the results and improve understanding (Hammarberg et al., 2016). The first step in the analysis involved revisiting the research objectives to accurately remember the study purpose and expected outcomes. The next stage required identification of data sources and determining their accessibility. Internet search enabled retrieval of adequate materials.

Data’s origin was an important factor during retrieval of materials and analysis. Credibility of data was as well sought by determining the consistency of information from different sources. The nature of publications used in an article also enabled confirmation of credibility. Data analysis also relied on ASD theory, habitus theory by Bourdieu, and conspicuous consumption theory by Veblen. With the three theories, the study analyzed key features of Chinese elites like consumption style, perspective on Western (British) lifestyle, influence on domestic and global business, roles elites play in modernization, participation and presence in higher education, and CCP enrolment and membership.  

3.5 Validity and Reliability 

The tools, strategies, and procedures employed in this study were ethical and appropriate for the study of business culture and the socio-economic advancement of Chinese elites. The investigation captured real-life encounters because it intended to portray the actual situation in social environment of participants (Hammarberg, 2016).

Although the information showed a particular level of inconsistency in some sources, a number of materials availed matching information. Culture proved to be a key aspect in explaining the phenomenon. The culture of elites facilitated understanding of their business or consumption behavior and their preferred strategies for attaining socio-economic progress. Cultural consistency could easily be determined across sources.   

Ethical Consideration

The study did not require permission because the sources were open to access and available on the Internet. Even then, the ownership of actual data was acknowledged (Tripathy, 2013) through in-text citation and inclusion of the sources in the list of references. The data which the researcher collected and applied in meeting the research objectives was enough and relevant but not excess. Additionally, no data source was retained longer than the study requirement and the researcher ensured that further analysis of the secondary data was properly performed.


This section presents the findings of the research based on the methodology described in the previous part. The results are arranged logically without bias or interpretation. This part simply presents the outcome of analyzing data gathered from newspapers, magazines, and relevant reports. The findings are also linked to the theoretical framework applied during data analysis.

i. Findings based on Theory of Conspicuous Consumption

The theory checked for showy consumption behavior, ownership of luxury for superiority purposes, preference for famous (advertised) product brands, purchase of luxury products, and leisure travel. Based on these factors, the business culture of Chinese elites is as follows:

Consumption Pattern 

The Jing Daily report by Laurent (2020) indicated that the United Nations expected numbers of Chinese travelers to reach 100 million by 2020. Surprisingly, the country attained the figures earlier in 2016. The report indicated that travel businesses ought to provide unique offers for the elites, who are now frequent travelers. A trend noted at the onset of the year 2020 was China’s elites forcing retailers and airports to upgrade the international travel experience. The most represented in the international elite shoppers’ category are the individuals in the Chinese millennial class (34% of the overall number). Laurent (2020) explained that 25% of millennials have a strong education and make 3 to 4 trips annually. They travel to Asia and Europe with popular destinations like France, Japan, the UK, and Italy. About 50% of Chinese millennials land in Japan and 25% in Europe. The travelers gain cultural experience through shopping but they are specific about editions and luxury brands they purchase. Popular goods include jewelry, leather items, and watches. In general, Chinese millionaires spend much time on holidays and leisure activities. In 2014, the outbound trips they engage in rose by 17%. An average Chinese millionaire makes about 6 outbound trips each year and their expenditure on Chinese luxury continues to decline. 36% of elite Chinese shoppers go to France, 31% to the UK, and another 36% to Italy. On average, they utilize €20,000 stores and an additional €42,000 on spending within the town.

Domestic and Global Luxury Spending

The Jing Daily report recommended close observation of Chinese elite shoppers explaining that the tastes of these individuals influence everyone else (Laurent, 2020). Although there is a fall in their luxury purchase domestically, the elites still influence the nature of goods sold in China. In McKinsey & Company (2019) Chinese consumers were responsible for about 66.7% of the growth in luxury expenditure in the period 2012 to 2018. Projections also indicated that this group of consumers would contribute 65% of additional global luxury spending come 2025.

Further statistics in the McKinsey and Company (2019) showed that Chinese elites’ domestic and international spending amounted to $115 billion in 2018 (one-third of global luxury expenditure). It also represented a 13% increase since 2012. This amount is expected to double by 2025 if the Chinese elites successfully deliver 40% of the word’s luxury spending. The statistics are plotted in the figure below.


Source: McKinsey & Company (2019)

Figure 1: Global and Domestic Luxury Expenses of China’s Elites

ii. Bourdieu’s Theory of Habitus

The theory facilitated discovery of evidence on cultural capital and influence of life experiences as illustrated in elites’ skills, habits, and character. It enabled examination of the effect of gender, culture, educational level, and class on investments and spending behavior of China’s elites. Findings revealed an undeniable liking for British style.

British Lifestyles among Chinese Elites

There is a notable trend among upper-middle-class Chinese ladies. Cerini (2016) revealed that in a couple of years ago, women from elite Chinese families concentrate on factors such as good manners, public conduct, the holding of parties, posture, and etiquette. The ladies who belong to the richest families as mothers, wives, or socialites gain rapid exposure to social situations and must learn to carry themselves appropriately. Enter Institute Sarita is the first finishing school in China that offers a bicultural perspective to etiquette. The charges are about $15,000 and the course takes around 10 to 12 days.

The lessons attended cover tips for socializing, hotel manners, choosing lingerie, engagement in noble sport, exposure to French cuisine, and pronunciation of luxury brands. The school’s clientele comes from all over China to take classes in Beijing or Shanghai. The majority of students belong to cities classified as second- and third-tier. The women are super-wealthy and have a high interest in the adoption of increased measures of quality of life. The skills and knowledge gained from the institution assist them as they travel, go for education opportunities abroad, conduct international business, and enroll their kids at prominent boarding schools.  

iii. ASD Theory  

This theory facilitated the investigation of elites’ creativity and their ability to transform the way they live. It also inspected the institutional and cultural aspects that shaped the behavior of individuals in this class. Another feature of interest to this analysis was the type of evolution that resulted from an interaction between their material and social environments. The results are presented below.  

Elites Role in Modernization

University Word News revealed that China succeeded in establishing the biggest higher learning system globally (Huang, 2019). Consequently, Chinese colleges and universities provide room for the greatest number of undergraduate learners in the entire world. The country has 30 million learners in higher learning institutions. The gross enrolment ratio for campuses was at 48% in 2018. In the same year, China trained and produced over 60,000 doctorial students. This number even exceeded what the U.S. produced.

The first feature of higher education institutions is that they are managed and directed by the Communist Party. This applies to the actual governance and control in all the institutions. Local authorities determine institutional leaders to local public institutions while the Ministry of Education selects presidents and secretaries of the Party in national universities. The party’s presence is also felt in private universities due to the dual governance systems in institutions. The Higher Education Law requires all the higher learning institutions to nurture committees of the Chinese Communist Party.

Secondly, the political elites and their ideologies influence what is taught, research, and student engagement. China has nation-wide mandatory programs in which all undergraduate students have to participate. Every undergraduate student must receive a minimum of 12 credits from such programs by the time of graduation. Third, the State Council and Education Ministry control and regulate the establishment of curriculum, research, and teaching techniques at undergraduate and postgraduate.

Lastly, there is a striking similarity between utilitarian and practical elements of Chinese higher education and those of Western economies. In 2018, for instance, engineering had the greatest number of graduates (at 33.4%) and the next was administration and management with 18.1%. Also, the government of China has been considering applied universities and vocational learning. In fact, as of April 2019, around 2,040 technical and educational institutions took part in the 1+X model. China is similar to its Asian counterparts that borrowed Western conventions and ideas to establish modern systems of education.

Elites Enrollment to CCP

In a Bangkok Post, AFP (2019) talked of a secretive institution in Beijing containing statues of previous leaders of China and a huge video portrayal of President Xi Jinping. The chairs in the school have red covers and most students are males, being prepared to join the elite class in the Communist Party. President Xi once headed the Central Party School so his philosophy still guides the curriculum for the aspiring political class. Notable statues within the school compound include that of Chairman Mao Zedong (former dean) and Deng Xiaoping, a supreme leader of the past. During the school tour, AFP (2019) captures the vice-leader of Academic Affairs at the institution saying that the school’s mission is to encourage Party solidarity by working for the Party and governance of China.

The Party School was founded in 1933. It accommodates around 1,600 learners per semester. The curriculum focuses on Marxism-Leninism, the thought of Mao Zedong, and the theories of Deng. There are as well courses on military issues, economics, and international aspects. Discipline is a key factor at the institution as emphasized by Xi, who cracked down corruption and strengthened the Party’s hold on society. The school ethos has these elements. The school does not allow any discussions on topics that oppose the central decisions of the Party leadership. To enable students to understand the country’s history and contribute towards finding solutions, the Party School teaches on Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen event. Even then, the curriculum leaves out the bloody clampdown of 1989 due to protests at Tiananmen Square. Also, the era of social and political turmoil under Mao is not part of the course on the Cultural Revolution.

China Banking News (CBN, 2020) also discussed the (Central) Party School stating that it serves as a tertiary learning institution and is a ministerial body, immediately, subordinate to CCP’s Central Committee. CBN (2020) identified Chen Xi, leader of the Organization Department of CCP, as the present head of the school. The first CCP schools of 1924 were the Beijing Party School and Anyuan Party School. They later became Central Party School and Chinese Academy of Governance that was merged in March 2018.

Elites in Higher Education

Higher education institutions in various countries of the world continue to rely on international enrolments of Chinese students. Presence of Chinese students in the global universities aid the balancing of budget and filling of unoccupied seats. Reporting for University World News, Altbach (2019) stated that out of the 1.1 million foreign students in the U.S., a third were Chinese. Also, 38% of Chinese students were in Australia and another 41% in the United Kingdom.

Due to such exposure, China has to incorporate measures that enable students to learn abroad to blend well with the Confucius Institutes and engage in research in the countries where they study. In 2017 alone, China had over 600,000 students pursuing higher education abroad. However, the real reason why China must adopt the higher education system in Western countries is that it now plays an active role in provision of international higher education. It offers university education to over 440,000 students belonging to its Asian counterparts.

China’s goal to upgrade its elite universities to the world-class level is revealed by PREC Edu Services (2017). The Study in China report identified the billion-dollar funded scheme as “World Class 2.0,” a project by the Education Ministry to collaborate with oversea universities but differentiate the top Chinese universities. Before World Class 2.0 was China’s C9 initiative intended to push to 9 Chinese universities to the elite class. This was part of the 985 programs which saw the country putting 1.2 billion U.S dollar in action to improve its top nine universities from 199 to 2001. The program also promoted other 30 higher education institutions to gain an international reputation for the country.   


This part interprets and explains the results provided above to identify the actual characteristics of Chinese elites. It also relates the findings with the results of previous researchers, included in the Literature Review section, and uses arguments by those authors to clarify the research findings. Therefore, the following are the features of China’s elites based on their socio-economic advancement and business culture:

i. Elites’ spending behavior prioritizes luxuries and adventure as opposed to necessities

While low-income households focus on buying necessities, the richest society members go after extremely costly products and services. McKinsey & Company (2019) revealed the huge luxury spending among Chinese elites and explained that it would continue to rise in the future. Laurent (2020) also reported a rise in international tours and shopping. While these are the latest trends, elites have a historical record in purchase of luxurious products. Salomatina (2018), for instance, explained that between the 1950s and 1970s the prosperity of China was marked by a wristwatch, bicycle, radio, and sewing machine or the “Four Big Things.”

This trend changed in the 1980s and the set of four things got replaced with a washing machine, camera, refrigerator, videocassette recorder, and electronic fan. Then came the economic reform that facilitated swift economic development thereby reducing poverty in about half of the country’s population. As a result of the changes, Chinese consumers began demanding relatively costlier items. At the time, the most desired good in each of the largest Chinese cities was the air-conditioning unit. In modern Chinese society, the belongings of an individual in the middle class include a modest car, expensive cellphone, huge apartment, luxurious foreign-branded clothing, and personal computer. Moreover, engagement in different leisure undertakings and traveling are crucial.  

Salomatina (2018) noted the new trend among the Chines elites whose most expenses go to butler resources, etiquette classes, golf, polo, or British furnishings and teatime. With the expansion of China’s middle class, there is an increase in the number of people that can afford luxury items. This encourages the elites to differentiate themselves by exploring lifestyle changes. Unlike the past when the rich people in China fully focused on purchasing luxury brands to showcase their status, Salomatina (2018) explained that the attention of elites has now moved to the consumption of knowledge. Additionally, the researcher indicated that the desire for education motivates Chinese millionaires to emigrate abroad. Jin et al. (2015) also reported the conspicuous spending among Chinese elites and linked the behavior to the search for higher social status.

ii. Elites show preference for (Western) British aristocratic lifestyle

Establishment of institutions such as Enter Institute Sarita and others in Beijing or Shanghai (Cerini, 2016) shows the determination of Chinese elites to learn British manners, etiquette, and public conduct. This also explains that the richest individuals in China are after establishing a new habitus. Agreeing with this outcome is Salomatina (2018) who argued that about four decades ago, Chinese belonged to closely related habitus but now the elites are after lifestyle broadcasted on television, mass media, or contained in novels of classical British. This factor promotes immigration to Britain.

The elite parents even initiate this style earlier in their children’s lives by taking them to boarding schools. Byun et al. (2020) also indicated that the preference for luxuries, like luxury fashion handbags, among Chinese elites living in the United States showed their acculturation to the Western culture. The study indicated that consumers could be motivated to purchase such products through illustration conspicuous and social worth in the design of products, adverts, and promotions.

Furthermore, Tackett (2014) elaborated that Tang elites believed in the European concept of “good breeding” thereby insisting on good marriages. The elites also showed a preference for superior manners, education, and morals. With the adoption of European aristocracy, China’s medieval aristocracy has lost its power to persuade society.  

iii. Chinese elites set consumption trends both domestically and globally

Elites belong to the superior class of society and they determine the functions of individuals in subordinate classes globally. As Laurent (2020) explained, the tastes and preferences of Chinese elites define what business people supply in markets. The trend is the same at domestic (in China) and international levels. Globally, McKinsey & Company (2019) found that Chinese consumers of luxury exceeded half (at 66.7%) the overall number of global purchasers of luxury.

The statistics show the substantial strength and influence of China’s elites in this market. Chinese are increasingly turning into main customers of luxury brands belonging to countries other than theirs. Similarly, Salomatina (2018) explained that the enormous investments by rich Chinese immigrants illustrate how they acquire power and impact the world. Atkin and Cholette (2017) also found that wine and foreign luxury demand among elites in China encourage production of such items across the world.   

iv. Chinese Elites pioneer and facilitate modernization in the country

The richest citizens of China see Westernization as the key to social and economic development. As a result, they have embraced the education system in Europe and Northern America and given the Confucian socio-cultural state of affairs dominance in prominent universities (Huang, 2019). All the higher education institutions in China accept and operate with the presence of the Communist Party. The Party is the primary tool for facilitating elites’ reforms. Significance of elites’ influence was as well noted by Yang (2017) who illustrated that the country relies on the elites to help integrate the indigenous culture of Chinese into the system of higher learning for the country to operate with an inter-civilizational framework.

Walia (2020) also argued that the developmental framework employed by China is built of the Western free market-based method. This model facilitated the economic advancement in the country in the past 30 years, giving the impression that the neo-liberal ideology of westerners faces no barriers spreading internationally. The significant economic reforms in China began in the past 25 years and have produced an unmatched pace of transformations in the economy. The developmental model is one in which the government involvement with firms and markets is selective, and happens to shape the path of economic development. The success of the reforms has enabled China to compete with liberal democracies from the West and encouraged the evolution of the country’s authoritarian state. The developmental model based on increased investment and export economy has contributed growth in the past 40 years.

v. Political elites are members of CCP

Party School plays a major role in molding and nurturing aspiring politicians from elite households (AFP, 2019). The school is itself managed and directed by key Party officials. CBN (2020) revealed that the existing head of the institution (Chen Xi) also leads the Organization Department of the Communist Party. The reason for Party enrolment is clarified by Yang et al. (2019) who found that CCP membership improved elites’ earnings and that it was particularly useful to those owning large enterprises. Adding to this discussion, Gruin (2016) portrayed CCP reforms as a way of manipulating financial changes to create an illiberal yet marketized bureaucratic economy. The socio-economic development after Tiananmen thus comprised widening of the economy, stability, and growing imbalance.

vi. Higher education plays a role in elites’ establishment and stratification

Chinese elites introduce their children to the Western lifestyle by enrolling them as international students in the U.S., Australia, and Europe (Altback, 2019). In fact, Yang (2017) discovered that it is the universities that give elites the opportunity to nurture the Western systems that they admire and believe can promote modernization. The high inclusion of students from elite class in universities is evidence that they recognize and appreciate the Western education system. A factor that Huang (2005) brought forward is that higher education tends to be so expensive that even urban dwellers cannot pay.

This implies that only elites have no problem covering such costs. To some extent, therefore, it is becoming apparent that prominent universities in China are for elites. Wu (2017) went a stage backward to show how enrollment at three-tier universities happens. In other words, students who study at key-point high schools get greater scores and easily earn admission in prominent universities. Additionally, Wu reported that students from elite schools had an increased chance of acquiring CCP membership.

vii.  The political elite influence market growth and promote capitalism

Party School’s curriculum focuses on guiding the students to combat corruption and gain influence in all areas of the society (AFP, 2019), including the market. CCP comprises autocrats that exercise control overgrowth of the Chinese market. In line with this Zang (2013) explained that the history and ideologies of CCP motivate elites to make reforms aimed at realizing economic growth. Zang argued that autocratic leaders are no different from other political regimes because all of them focus on high rates of growth that allow them to attract additional rents.

As leaders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), wealth accumulation is a major objective of Chinese elites. Similar to other autocracies, political elites in China develop their economy as a way of persevering the liberal-ideology controlled world. Despite the positive contributions, the country’s economy lacks fairness, certainty, and transparency compared to most Western economies. The levels of social injustices, discrimination, and arbitrary choices made by PRC exceed those of Western countries.

The existence of such negativities in the Chinese market could be the outcome of capitalism, which is a feature of elites, as the richest citizens invest their wealth in trade and other industries to maximize profits. Factors such as capital accumulation, private ownership of production means or property, and profit motives encourage the establishment of illiberal and unfair market operations.             


This last section provides a summary of the entire work. It contains the researcher’s opinion regarding the research topic and offers key takeaway points for the readers. Study limitations and suggested ways of correcting the weaknesses are also part of this conclusion.


The study concludes that elites’ social, economic, and cultural aspects distinguish them from other members of society. As the wealthiest and most powerful group, they rule others and determine the nature of goods/services availed by traders in the market (Salomatina, 2018). An elite can be any person as long as he/she has property worth the same as the wealthiest people in a country. Yang et al. (2019) identified the common people within the elite class to include high government officials, clerical employees, and other workers, professionals, and owners of small and large businesses. Also, the members have attained a high educational level.

Another notable point is that elites’ consumption of luxury is driven by materialist purpose (enjoyment found in possession of expensive products), the need for improved social status (owners of luxury appear superior to others), and desire to receive recognition in social contexts (Yu, 2014). Regardless of the motivation, the study found that Chinese elites have an undeniable preference for luxury products. In China, the political elites gain power from membership with the Communist Party. In turn, they lead and control running of organizations and institutions in the country. The elites also influence the curriculum of higher education as well as market forces.

Similar to Zhang (2018) and Jin et al. (2015) this study infers that the theory of conspicuous consumption accurately describes the spending behavior of China’s elites. Unlike these two, however, this research does not define the motives behind the conspicuous consumption of luxury items. What is known to this study is that the growth of income has facilitated the emergence of the social elite class, the elites consume the most expensive goods, and they have enough money to live luxuriously.

Again, this analysis confirms that Chinese elites value Western culture and education system. Salomatina (2018) arrived at a similar conclusion. This also implies that Bourdieu’s habitus theory is appropriate for the evaluation of strategies Chinese elites employ to achieve modernization. China’s elites are indeed creating a new habitus. Another important point is that ASD theory is appropriate for assessment of socio-economic expansion and how institutional and cultural elements mold human conduct.

Recommendations for Future Research

The main weakness of this study lies in the use of secondary data. Although the information was gathered from reputable and reliable sources, the data was collected by other individuals to fulfill purposes different from those of the present research. Therefore, further research on this topic should apply different approaches to qualitative research such as interviewing Chinese elites, conducting a focus group discussion, and observation. The results of such studies should be compared with those contained here to determine consistency. Quantitative research methods could as well be applied and if findings are consistent, the reliability of this study’s findings will be proved.

Again, the criteria used to include resources left out the outdated sources by focusing on most recent news and reports (within the past 5 years) but there is a possibility that some crucial information was not gathered. The use of additional data collection techniques such as interviewing and surveying could enable future studies to gather more in-depth data on this topic.