World's second largest economy has seen its middle class grow to 109 million
Luxury homes in Shanghai
7:37AM BST 14 Oct 2015
China's middle class has overtaken the United States to become the largest in the world according to a comprehensive new report on the distribution of global wealth.
Despite fears of a global growth slowdown in the emerging world, Asia is set to be the scene for the greatest expansion of the world's middle class, said Credit Suisse, in its annual wealth report.
The Swiss bank said with 109 million adults "this year, the Chinese middle class for the first time outnumbered" that in the United States at 92 million.
While the number of middle class worldwide grew last year at a slower pace than the wealthy, it "will continue to expand in emerging economies overall, with a lion's share of that growth to occur in Asia," said Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam.
Number of middle-class adults (million), 2015, by region and country
"As a result, we will see changing consumption patterns as well as societal changes as, historically, the middle class has acted as an agent of stability and prosperity," he added.
The report said size and wealth of the middle class was a key factor in economic development, and the middle class was often at the heart of political movements and new consumption trends.
China now accounts for a fifth of the world population, while holding nearly 10pc of the global wealth.
The report used a floor for the middle class as having wealth double the annual medium income for their country.
While wealth may still be mostly concentrated in Europe and the United States, Mr Thiam said "the growth of wealth in emerging markets has been most impressive, including a fivefold rise in China since the beginning of the century."
Overall, the report found that global wealth fell by nearly 5pc in the year to mid-2015 to $250 trillion due a strengthening of the US dollar in which income is compared.
However if currency effects are stripped out, wealth continued to expand at the trend rate since the beginning of the century.
The report also found the number of millionaires is forecast to increase 46pc to 49.3 million over the next five years, with Malaysia more than doubling the number of affluent individuals with $1 million.