In 2003, China's GDP per capita reached US$1,000 at the prevailing rate of exchange, indicating a step up in China's consumption structure. Today China's consumers are spending their money on education, housing, automobiles, computers, stocks and overseas travel. Living conditions have further improved. Clothing, food, housing and transportation show the greatest changes, reflecting greater concern for fashion, nutrition and home comfort. Traveling by taxi or in one's own car has become commonplace.
The Engel coefficient (food expenses as a percentage of total consumer spending) fell from 39.4 percent in 2000 to 36.7 percent in 2005, and although having not reached, but is gradually approaching developed countries' 30 percent; among rural households it fell from 49.1 percent to 45.5 percent.
People have more and better-quality consumer goods. Big-screen HD color TVs, fridge-freezers, and automatic washing machines have become the city dweller's first choice when replacing old household appliances. Air conditioners, home entertainment units, water heaters and exercise equipment also are popular consumer items; cars, video cameras and computers are becoming commonplace in the average home. In 2005, car sales in China increased by 21.4 percent. Of every 100 cars sold, at least 60 were bought by individuals, and in big cities the rate was over 80 percent. Expenditure on housing has also kept increasing, by over 30 percent nationwide in 2005. The average per capita living area for urban residents was 26 sq m and for rural residents nearly 30 sq m.