They own cars, property, digital electronics, bankcards and insurance
They are keen international travellers, media savvy and dependent on the
Internet for shopping and communication.
They are young and well-educated and dine out at least three times a month.
And most of all, they are the driving force behind luxury consumption in
China, shopping for brands such as Longines, Omega, Pierre Cardin, Dunhill and
This is a general portrait of China's premium consumers, or the "first-world
consumers" defined in the country's first comprehensive report on domestic
The China Life Report 2006, released on Friday, was based on a one-year
survey conducted by the China National Research Association and MasterCard
The survey interviewed 10,000 respondents in 10 major Chinese cities with a
combined population of 40 million, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and
The report divides the consumers into three groups first-world,
second-world and third-world in line with their purchasing power.
The first-world consumers refer to the urban high-income earners whose
consumption demand and capacity support China's upscale consumption market,
according to the report.
It estimates that the number of consumers in the three categories stands at 6
million, 32 million and 2 million respectively in the 10 cities.
About 53 per cent of first-world consumers are college-educated or above and
nearly 52 per cent of them are middle- or senior-level managerial staff and
In contrast, more than 75 per cent of the second-world consumers have no
college education and over 72 per cent of them work in the manufacturing
industry and service sectors such as business, transport and catering.
The report notes that the annual household and individual income of the
first-world consumers averages 218,000 yuan (US$27,250) and 117,000 yuan
(US$14,147), and about 85 per cent of them are aged between 25 and 39.
The average annual income of the second-world consumers is 19,680 yuan
(US$2,460) per person, while third-world consumers are the poverty-stricken
living in urban areas.
While the first-world consumers spend up on cosmetics, sports, recreation and
travel, their second-world counterparts are suffering against inadequate
resources for housing, medical treatment and education for their children.
These starkly contrasting situations reflect two sides of the coin: growing
consumption demand from the nouveau riche versus lack of purchasing power of the
urban poor, said Yuwa Hedrick Wong, economic adviser to MasterCard International
"While the fast economic growth in China has generated a huge demand for
consumption ... it has failed to spread wealth to most people," he told China
Zhang Zhongliang, secretary-general of the China National Research
Association, said although first-world consumers boast tremendous purchasing
power they make up only a very small proportion of the urban
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