So how much do you think someone has to make to be categorized a white-collar employee?
Depends on where he or she lives; and the difference can be substantial.
It could be as high as 18,500 yuan ($2,481) per month in Hong Kong or a mere 900 yuan ($120) in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, with about 5,000 yuan ($670) making the cut in Beijing.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) released its findings over the weekend in the 2007 White-collar Workers Salary Standard in Major Chinese Cities - the first of its kind.
The benchmarks in some major cities at the upper end are: 8,900 yuan ($1,194) in Macao, 5,350 yuan ($717) in Shanghai, 5,280 yuan ($708) in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province, 4,980 yuan ($668) in Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province and 4,750 yuan ($637) in Guangzhou of Guangdong Province.
At the lower end are: 1,300 yuan ($174) in Nanning of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 1,100 yuan ($148) in Yinchuan of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xining of Qinghai Province.
The report was based on a comprehensive calculation of many local factors including commodity prices, living expenses, transportation costs and urbanization level.
But for some people, the income levels are only an academic exercise.
"The 5,000-yuan standard is vastly different for people who have to pay monthly mortgages and for those who don't," said Liu Meiyu, a 28-year-old architect who works for Beijing Design and Research Institute and bought a two-bedroom apartment a few months ago with bank loans.
"A monthly salary of 10,000 yuan ($1,341) might be just right for a white-collar benchmark," she told China Daily.
Lhasa's low figure has also raised some doubts.
"The 900-yuan level is far too low as the cost of living is not low at all," said Lei Wenzheng, a local tourist guide.
A manager at a local department store can earn an average of 2,000 to 3,000 yuan ($402) a month, while public servants are paid higher there than those in eastern provinces as the central government provides extra subsidies, according to Lei.
Xia Xueluan, a professor in social sciences of Peking University, said income alone is not the determining factor.
"White-collar' or 'middle-class' means a combination of factors such as wealth, power and prestige, not simply income or property, Xia said.
(China Daily November 5, 2007)