That market's predilection for globally branded luxury goods has meant that many companies have succeeded without significantly changing their products.
But the next two decades will see the growth of a huge - and young - urban middle class with an overall spending power that will dwarf the affluent.
Housing and healthcare are forecast to be among the fastest growing areas of spending among urban Chinese: private homeownership has only recently begun, while a rapidly ageing population will fuel healthcare spending.
Many of today's blue-collar workers will make up this growing middle class. Companies should focus on this emerging segment now.
The value of China's emerging middle class; special edition:
serving the new Chinese consumer,
Diana Farrell, Ulrich A Gersch and Elizabeth Stephenson,
McKinsey Quarterly 2006
Review by Steve Lodge