Deficiencies of food and daily necessities are a thing of the past in today's China and consumption patterns have also undergone radical change; as expenses for food, clothing and basics fall, China's consumers today are spending their money on housing, transportation, telecommunications, medical and health care, culture, education and entertainment, leisure and tourism.
The Engel coefficient (food expenses as a percentage of total consumer spending) among urban residents dropped from 57.5 percent in 1978 to 37.7 percent in 2004; among rural residents it dropped from 67.7 to 47.2 percent. Urban residents are shopping at supermarkets as well stocked as any in the Western world and dining out at fine restaurants. In rural areas, people are less dependent on grains and are eating more eggs and meat. Affordable, ready-made clothes are available everywhere with people dressing smartly.
Housing, transportation and telecommunications have also seen vast improvement. More and better-quality consumer goods; big-screen-high-definition color TVs, fridge-freezers, and automatic washing machines have become the urban resident's first choice when replacing old household appliances. Air conditioners, home entertainment units, water heaters and furniture also are popular consumer items; cars, video cameras, computers and exercise equipment are becoming commonplace in the average home. In 2004 car purchases increased by 58 percent; of every 100 cars sold, at least 60 were bought by individuals, and in big cities the rate can reach 80 percent. Consumer spending on housing has also kept growing, annual figures showing a 30.4 percent increase in 2004.