When judging by total GDP, China is the second richest country in the world (behind the United States). But on an individual level, how much money is needed to be “rich” in China? Would you be considered rich in China?
A monthly income of ~$10,000 USD or more would arguably make you “rich” in China. That amount puts you well into the top 5% of earners, along with attorneys, CEOs, and doctors. For net worth, you need ~$960,000 USD of assets to be in the top 1% in China.
I’ll expand on those numbers and more below, to help you understand what really counts as “rich” in China. We’ll look at average pay and net worth, cost of living comparisons, and a lot more!
What is Wealthy in China?
When we talk about being “rich” in China, we have to look at both income and wealth. Let’s start with wealth.
In 2022, there were an estimated 6,190,000 dollar millionaires in China, according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute. That means 0.6% of Chinese adults had 1 million USD or more in assets. That’s about 1 in 167 adults. (source)
To be among the wealthiest 1% in mainland China in 2023, you need ~$960,000 USD in assets (source). Notably, that includes the value of your home. (A lot of wealth in China comes from widespread home ownership and a housing boom.)
How does that compare to other countries in Asia? Well, in Singapore and Japan, you need more: ~$3.5 million USD in Singapore and $~1.7 million in Japan. Hong Kong sets a high bar at $3.4 million USD for entry into the 1%, as well. (source)
But in SE Asia, many countries have lower barriers for the top 1% of wealth. In Malaysia, you only need ~$485,000 USD. Meanwhile, the Philippines and Indonesia are much lower, around ~$60,000 USD each. (source)
What Is a Good Salary in China?
Now let’s talk about monthly income. First, let’s look at the lower end of things—minimum wage and lower-income jobs.
The minimum wage in China varies by province—but it seems to be pretty low compared to actual reported salaries. Let’s look at some examples.
As of August 2023, in Beijing the minimum wage is 2,320 CNY per month (~$320 USD) or 25.30 CNY per hour (~$3.50 USD). But in parts of Hainan, for example, it’s 1,680 CNY per month (~$230 USD) or 14.90 CNY per hour (~$2.10 USD). (source)
However, most lower-income jobs in China are reported to have considerably higher monthly incomes than that:
- Waiter / Waitress: 9,190 CNY (~$1,270 USD)
- Cashier: 10,800 CNY (~$1,490 USD)
- Mechanic: 11,500 CNY (~$1,590 USD)
- Secretary: 12,800 CNY (~$1,770 USD)
So, the lower end of Chinese earners are making under ~$2,000 USD per month. But what about higher-income jobs? How much do richer Chinese make?
High Income in China
Here are reported monthly incomes for some better-paying careers in China:
- Attorney: 58,300 CNY (~$8,060 USD)
- CEO: 68,800 CNY (~$9,510 USD)
- Dentist: 69,800 CNY (~$9,640 USD)
Aside from these specific jobs, we can also look at broader salary distributions. What do the top 50% of earners make? What about the top 5%? As of 2023, Salary Explorer reports the following:
- The top 50% earn 26,900 CNY or more per month (~$3,720 USD).
- The top 25% earn 40,700 CNY or more per month (~$5,620 USD).
- The top 15% earn 45,800 CNY or more per month (~$6,330 USD).
- The top 5% earn 58,500 CNY or more per month (~$8,080 USD).
- “Almost everyone” earns 131,000 CNY or less per month (~$18,100 USD).
To recap: When it comes to monthly income, the low end in China often makes ~$1,000 to $2,000 USD per month, while the median is ~$3,720 USD, and most top earners are in the range of ~$8,000 to $18,000 USD or more per month.
Cost of Living in China
The cost of living in China can vary a lot depending on the city. In some cities, you’ll find deals as cheap as Thailand or Vietnam—but in other cities, you’ll be paying substantially more.
For a quick overview of some popular options, let’s look at some estimated cost of living figures from Nomad List:
|City||Expat Cost of Living||Nomad Cost of Living|
|Guangzhou||$896 USD||$1,418 USD|
|Chengdu||$861 USD||$1,366 USD|
|Shanghai||$1,276 USD||$1,989 USD|
|Beijing||$1,829 USD||$2,559 USD|
|Chongqing||$771 USD||$1,398 USD|
|Wuhan||$821 USD||$1,524 USD|
|Shenzhen||$1,810 USD||$2,471 USD|
|Macau||$8,089 USD||$6,797 USD|
As you can see, Macau especially stands out as an expensive place to live. But there are also cheap options like Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Wuhan.
We can also compare the average cost of living in China overall to other countries, using Numbeo. Despite fluctuations based on specific cities, this should give us a general sense of the scale of prices in different countries.
The following table shows the “cost of living with rent” in China compared to other countries:
|Country||How China Compares|
|United States||China is ~129% cheaper.|
|Australia||China is ~118% cheaper.|
|Canada||China is ~94% cheaper.|
|United Kingdom||China is ~81% cheaper.|
|South Korea||China is ~67% cheaper.|
|Japan||China is ~39% cheaper.|
|Thailand||China is ~2% more expensive.|
|Vietnam||China is ~13% more expensive.|
|Philippines||China is ~13% more expensive.|
|Malaysia||China is ~20% more expensive.|
|Colombia||China is ~31% more expensive.|
|India||China is ~45% more expensive.|
But again, remember that the specific city will impact your costs a lot. Rent costs can be as much as 79% cheaper in Chongqing than Macau, for example. (source)
As shown above, your budget in China will depend heavily on where you stay. But with the exception of Macau, I’d say an expat budget of $2,000 USD per month would be a good starting point for most cities.
What It Takes to Be “Rich” in Different Asian Countries
Read my other guides to what counts as “rich” in Asia—complete with salary data, net worth statistics and more: