Towards a pluralistic understanding of Chinese homeowners: the case of 'ordinary' buyers
In this paper we address ‘ordinary’ Chinese buyers in London’s residential real estate market. We argue that current academic and policy analysis, particularly of elites, has focused on the higher-end of the market and over-emphasised the detached nature of international buyers. In contrast, building on, but departing from, existing analyses of the multiple classes of Chinese investors evident in London (see Glucksberg, 2016), we reveal the tactics and motivations of buyers with budgets of less than £500,000. We show that they are motivated by good schools, easy commutes and use similar technologies to mediate and understand the market to local buyers. Such aims and approaches, we argue, show the ordinariness of many Chinese buyers. Underpinning their aims is an aspirational, class-defined desire based on making sacrifices so their children can have a ‘normal British life’. This becomes an elective belonging, as they integrate into the norms of London’s housing market. In demonstrating how the realities of ordinary buyers contrasts with existing narratives of Chinese investors, we highlight plurality of experiences, strategies and aims of Chinese people buying homes. We argue such an understanding forces us to rethink the form and character of Chinese investment practices in western cities by de-centring London’s prime areas and purchasers when analysing property acquisition’s internationalisation. In turn this evidences the false binary of local and international demand and shows the complexities hidden behind narratives of international capital.