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Middle Kingdom, Middle Class

China | Saturday, 8 June 2013 | 5 photos

I find China a fascinating place due to the speed at which it is changing and the opposing forces pulling it in different directions. There are visible tensions between old and new, rich and poor, tradition and progress, communism and capitalism, history and future.

Rapid development and economic growth in recent years are creating the largest aspirational middle class the world has ever seen. With rising disposable incomes, China's middle class is driving a boom in domestic travel and consumer goods sales, and being influenced by and aspiring to Western affluence means traditional fashion and music styles are evolving.

China's middle class currently numbers about 230 million people and is growing rapidly, set to triple in a little over a decade. They wield enormous, undeniable purchasing power and will play a crucial economic and cultural role in the 21st century, as well as presenting numerous social and environmental challenges.

I visited China in 2012. I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, surprised by the pervasiveness of capitalist Western brands in a supposedly communist country, and astonished at the level of modernity and tangible speed of development. As I wandered the streets of Shanghai and Beijing with my camera, I was compelled to document the rise of China's middle class that I could see happening all around me. This photo journal is the result.

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