A fundamental generational change in attitude is happening: business people in China have started to question lavish banquets with too much bajiu, and new approaches to health and wellness are coming into vogue—particularly among the young, hip and urban. Rising with this trend is a multibillion-dollar fitness and food industry. Fitness apps are being downloaded by the tens of millions, and gyms are popping up almost everywhere you look in major cities. Market researchers predict that the gym, health and fitness clubs industry is to generate $5.81 billion, and that does not include sales of health food, which seems to be a craze all its own.
The emerging middle class is the starting point for many discussions on China’s economy and society. But who are these people that, as Professor Luigi Tomba puts it, are “going to be at the epicenter of every social change that is going to happen” in China? And more importantly, where do they come from? The terms applied to them are misleading. Locally they are something of an economic elite, and even so have not reached the wealth of their supposed Western counterparts – in other words, they are not the “middle” of anything. They are also far from uniform.