What China's Talking About Today: The Rising Cost of Living

The country's Twitter-like microblog starts a conversation about livable wages and disposable income in the world's powerhouse economy.

Beijing Feb28 p.jpg

A woman shops for groceries at a Beijing supermarket / Reuters

Chinese Web users are discussing livable wages, savings, and disposable incomes -- all at a time when analysts argue that China must promote consumerism and ween itself off a chronic dependence on production.

Trending today on Sina Weibo, China's popular micro-blogging site, is the phrase "月入7500没安全感." in English: "There's no feeling of security with a 7,500RMB monthly salary."

The hash-tagged quote comes from a Beijing resident who was interviewed in a recent article on Sina News that discusses Chinese middle-class city-dweller's dissatisfaction with their incomes.

In the article, Xiao Yao, a recent university graduate, broke down his monthly finances:  

Monthly income before taxes: 7,500RMB (~US$1,191)
Tax and insurance deductions: -1,000
Rent: -1,500
Food: -1,200
Money to send home to the family: -500
Entertainment/ misc. expenses: -1,100
Net savings: 2,200

Xiao Yao's gripe is more about savings than being able to spend more than 1,100RMB a month on entertainment and miscellaneous expenses. His net savings rate is about 30%, which he considers perilously low. (The average U.S. savings rate is around 4% right now.)

He doesn't shop much. He doesn't have a girlfriend, so that he doesn't need to do things like "buy designer bags or think about purchasing a home."

"Other than daily expenses, I basically don't make any contributions to the national GDP," Xiao Yao told Sina.

In under a day, discussion of Xiao Yao's monthly salary spanned roughly a million micro-blogs, as of 5 AM on February 29th, Beijing time. On a sidebar poll of nearly 13 thousand Weibo users, some 85 percent reported that they were either altogether unhappy with their earnings -- selecting the option reading, Who doesn't want more money? -- or were living paycheck-to-paycheck.

The Sina News article observes that, although urban Beijing's per capita annual income of over 80,000 RMB is "on-par with rich countries," the city's per capita disposable income is only 33,000RMB -- 40 percent of GDP per capita, "at least 10 percentage points below most rich countries."

Some Weibo users seemed a little more likely to spend their meager disposable incomes than Xiao Yao. 

User 小猪快跑去美国 (literally, "Little pig's soon going to the U.S.") wrote,"For me, [7,500 a month] is more than enough... I spend what I earn. I earn less, I spend less. I earn more, I spend more. -- Don't beat yourself up [about savings]."

Others waxed philosophical about spending.

谷美丽1987 wrote:"If you work hard, spend hard. What's this security you're talking about? Add a 1 in front of that 7,500, and you'll still be insecure. What you should be afraid of is dying and still having a lot of money in the bank."

Shopaholics like the above micro-bloggers could serve to save an economy that, according to this recent post on TheAtlantic.com, attributes only 35 percent of GDP to consumption -- trailing far behind rival developing power, India.

Presented by

Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Global

Just In