IV: Behavior and value system of the middle class

A study on the sense of national identity among the middle class in China’s megacities

An analysis of tourist behavior[1]

Liang Yucheng and Yang Xiaodong

12.1 Introduction

Since the reform and opening up, Chinese society has entered a new stage of development. Under the multiple backgrounds of globalization, marketization and modernization, transnational economic, political and other social activities have become increasingly frequent, and national boundaries have been blurred. National identity is the primary prerequisite for the legitimacy of the nation-state and its construction, and the identity crisis caused by globalization poses a great challenge to the nation-state (Wang and He, 2013). After 1978, China's social stratification moved towards diversification and gradually formed a hierarchical structure based on occupation. With the advent of urbanization and the improvement of material and cultural living standards, the middle class is growing as a backbone of society and is gradually becoming an important factor influencing the development of the country and society. This study divides the social classes into "middle class” and "other classes”. In current sociological research, the middle class's middle social status can effectively bind other social classes, and is often regarded as a social “stabilizer” (Lii and Wu, 2016), and is also the main driving force for social consumption. As the middle class is a growing social group in society, it is important to understand the sense of national identity among its members. Tourism, an important consumer activity, has overtaken oil exports as the world's largest economic activity since the 1990s and continues to do so today. Its impact on the sense of national identity cannot be underestimated.

The question can then be asked: Are there differences in tourism as an economic activity for different classes? Tourism can be divided into domestic tourism and international tourism, depending on destination. Is there, then, a difference in the probability of engaging in domestic tourism and international tourism? What are the differences in the sense of identity that different classes of people derive from travel?

Understanding these issues is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the sense of national identity among the middle class, but no scholar has yet conducted an in-depth study of the sense of national identity among the middle class from the analysis of tourism behavior. A search on the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI, as of November 27, 2016) using the keywords

“middle class”, “identity” and "tourism" produced only 35 pieces of literature, mainly in the form of case studies; the content covered consumption-and-leisure and self-identification on the micro-level, and there was a lack of comprehensive research on the sense of national identity among the middle class.

In this article, the sense of national identity among the middle class is analyzed from the perspective of tourism behavior using data from the 2015 Survey of the Living Conditions of the Population in Megacities (collected using the Probability Proportional to Size (PPS) sampling method). Our research target is the middle class. In the actual survey, it is extremely difficult to reach upper class respondents who are at the top of the society, and their contact rate is very low. Therefore, in the analysis of the data, we divided the social class of all the respondents into middle class and other classes, which better reflects reality and is more reasonable.

This article analyzes the sense of national identity among the middle class by exploring class differences in tourism and its degree of influence and scale of impact on national identity. We propose three research hypotheses based on literature review and theoretical analysis, followed by the validation of our proposed theories through empirical data; in order to resolve the issue of joint endogeneity of international and domestic tourism, we use the bivariate probit model.

  • [1] This study is part of a major project of China’s National Social Science Foundation,"Heterogeneity of Community Structure in Chinese Cities and Towns Based on Large-Scale Survey Data and Study on its Grassroots Governance” (15ZDB 172).
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