China Overtakes US As Biggest Consumer Economy

18 February 2005

"There is a serious tendency toward capitalism among the well-to-do peasants, said the first chairman of the Chinese People's Republic Mao Zedong.

He kidded not!

On Wednesday the USA (and the rest of the world) passed a momentous landmark - the ousting of America as the globe's largest consumer of food and industrial goods. That distinction now rests with the most populous nation on the planet.

According to respected Washington-headquartered ecological body, the Earth Policy Institute, the Chinese not only consume more basics such as meat, grain, steel and coal; they also buy more refrigerators, more televisions, more cellphones - even more hamburgers!

Says EPI president Lester Brown: "If the last century was the American century, this one looks to be the Chinese century. China is no longer just a developing country. It is an emerging economic superpower, one that is writing economic history."

The only basic commodity still consumed in greater quantities by Americans is oil - a dubious title set to change hands in a few years. Across the board, however, per capita consumption remains far below that of the United States.

Marx may have been right when he proclaimed that capitalism "contains the seeds of its own destruction". But wrong about the way they germinate. And in what guise.

Data sourced from Business World (USA); additional content by WARC staff