Consuming ‘authenticity’? Reinterpreting the ‘new middle class’ in China through the lens of retailing changes

Liu Cao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


If gentrification is occurring globally, we must understand the uneven intervention of globalisation in the production of a (global) gentrifier class. This paper adopts a comparative perspective to investigate the ‘new middle class’ within China’s urban context. Through the critical examination of subtle retailing changes, it discusses how recent place-making strategies have fabricated the aura of ‘authenticity’ built upon the history of traditional residential neighbourhoods, attracting gentrifiers, whose consumption practices have transformed the retail space of a gentrified historic neighbourhood. Using Nanjing as a case study by employing qualitative research methods, this study shows that the Chinese new middle classes have yearned for modern and elitist lifestyles, with a preference for consuming Western-style goods to manifest their distinctive tastes and social status. This paper’s research findings propose the concept of Xiaozi consumption, a specific term that challenges Western-developed concepts of ‘consuming authenticity’ by highlighting the planetary indigeneity of gentrification in the Global South.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-518
Number of pages18
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Xiaozi consumption
  • authenticity
  • gentrification
  • globalisation
  • retailing changes


Dive into the research topics of 'Consuming ‘authenticity’? Reinterpreting the ‘new middle class’ in China through the lens of retailing changes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this