The shortage of daily necessities is now no longer to be found at the Chinese market. Great changes have taken place in the residents’ consumption structure. Of the consumption expenditure, the expenses of food, clothing and basic daily utilities have greatly declined; and those of housing, transportation, telecommunications, medical and health care, culture, education and entertainment have rapidly grown, resulting in the further improvement of the quality of the people’s life.
The Engel coefficient (the proportion of food expenses in the total consumption expenditure) of urban residents decreased from 57.5 percent in 1978 to 37.9 percent in 2001; and that of rural residents dropped from 67.7 percent to 47.7 percent. Urban residents pay greater attention to eating delicious, high-quality, nutritious and convenient food; and more people take meals in the restaurants. Cleaned vegetables, quick-frozen food and semi-prepared food have been sold well at the supermarkets and department stores. In the rural areas, the consumption of staple food has dropped, and that of animal-related food has increased greatly. Now the people wear colorful, middle- and high-class clothes instead of dull and low-class clothes in the past, showing personal consumption characteristics. The proportion of the ready-made clothes has also increased remarkably.
In addition, great improvement has been made in housing, transportation and telecommunications. The number of household electric appliances and other durable consumer goods owned by the people has further increased, and their quality has remarkably improved. While renewing their household electric appliances, urban residents show great interest in the large-screen, high-definition color TV, large and multi-door new-type refrigerators, and low-noise, fuzzy-cylinder automatic washing machines. Air-conditioners, home entertainment units, water heaters, middle- and high-class furniture have become well received consumer goods; and cars, video cameras, computers and body-building equipment have begun to enter ordinary homes.
When the people are satisfied with their material well-being, their cultural lives have been further enriched. The residents’ expenses for refining their sentiment, participating in cultural and art, body-building and health care activities, and improving their medical care have steadily increased, and the expenses for their children’s non-compulsory education and their own continuing education have risen by a large margin.