THE Consumer Price Index figures for November to be issued this week will draw more than normal attention from analysts anxious to see whether inflation will resume its earlier trend. The previous two months have given conflicting evidence on the inflation outlook, largely as a result of an upsurge in food prices due to bad weather in October. This took the October 12 months CPI (A) index up to nine per cent from the low rate of 7.9 per cent achieved in September. The November figures, to be issued on Tuesday, should show a back-tracking from the high October level as food prices should have subsided. But economists will be analysing the figures closely to determine the trend in the volatile food price sector and to see if inflation is re-emerging in other sectors. Everything points to a return to a lower rate of inflation, including lower domestic demand pressure, low world commodity prices, lower fuel prices and little pressure on rents. But the timing is crucial at year's end with so many companies in the territory having just completed, or in the process of making, their wage determinations for the coming year. A lower rate of inflation in November, and in December, will make the wage outcome all the more palatable to local employees and employers. A lower rate of inflation by year's end will also provide a good base to help ease the rate down still further in the year ahead to bring Hong Kong more in line with world rates. The Government, for its part, has already cut its forecast for 1993 inflation to 8.5 per cent in two 0.5 per cent steps from the original 9.5 per cent expectation. An 8.5 per cent outcome for the year would be a substantial improvement over last year's rate and provide a basis for confidence that Hong Kong can continue to ease the rate. But it still seems unlikely that inflation will ease much further. World commodity prices cannot be expected to stay depressed forever and the gains to Hong Kong from the devaluation of the renminbi and its effect on cross border prices are complete. On the other hand, higher inflation in China could eventually flow across the border to Hong Kong as Chinese suppliers push up the prices of exports to the territory. Hong Kong cannot afford to ease up in its fight against inflation. ONE of the most revealing pieces of writing to appear in the official Chinese economic media during the last year was economist Yao Yigang's assessment of the new Chinese consumer society. While many Western societies - and many Asian ones as well - seek to show how egalitarian they are - at least at a theoretical level, if not in reality - China appears to be doing the opposite. Following Deng Xiaoping's edict that to be rich is glorious, Mr Yao, an economist with the Trade Promotion newsletter, sought during the year to explain a new class structure in the socialist state, with an article entitled, ''Five Levels of Consumption''. ''Economic experts, through investigation, pointed out there are large gaps among China's consumers today,'' he said. He then went on to divide China's consumers into five categories, ranging down from the very rich to the poor. The highest level he called the ''super rich''. ''They are mainly the bosses of private enterprises or Sino-foreign joint ventures who are successful in business and with millions in money,'' he said. ''They often dine in restaurants, buy whatever they like without asking the price and are fond of foreign brand-name goods.'' The second level is merely ''the rich''. ''Most are senior managerial staff and technicians of Sino-foreign joint ventures, senior intellectuals, performers doing extra work, people with rich relatives abroad, contractors of medium and small projects,'' Mr Yao said. ''They have a fat income, often dine at restaurants on festival days or Sunday, buy the best thing regardless of prices. They often buy fashion or precious goods to boast their economic strength and status.'' If you are in the third strata of this new consumer society, you are merely the ''well-to-do''. ''These include medium managerial staff at Sino-foreign joint ventures, intellectuals with a second job, individual industrial or commercial people and contractors.'' he said. ''They may have bank deposits of several tens of thousands of yuan. They live comfortably and can afford meat and fish every day. They have all kinds of electric appliances and sometimes have a meal at restaurants. They are able to go after fashion but are practical as well.'' At the fourth level are those ''who live a decent life''. ''They are wage earners in well-run enterprises,'' he said. They have small amounts in bank deposits and have to plan for a few years to buy a big electric appliance. ''Their psychology on consumption is cheap and good for utility. They often go window shopping rather than actual buying and have a high demand on the quality of goods and after-sale service.'' But no one would want to be in the final class, ''the poor''. ''They have no bank deposits and can barely make both ends meet,'' Mr Yao said. ''They work in poor-run state-owned enterprises and have many children. They just buy cheap daily necessities regardless of brand, style and colour.'' No, you certainly would not want to be poor, even in the new socialist market economy of China. The poor clearly have little class. But on a more serious note, Mr Yao's analysis is a remarkable example of just how things have changed in China in recent years under the open-door policy of Mr Deng. Ian Perkin is chief economist with the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed in this column are his own and may not necessarily reflect chamber policy.