Depends on what you mean.
Who’s number one in steel production? China.
Who’s number one in mobile phones? Well...China again.
Who’s number one in manufacturing output? That would be China too.
How about car sales? China!
How about exports? China.
Patents granted? China.
Energy consumption? China
Fixed investment? China
The country that invented the compass, gunpowder and printing is also challenging America in the innovation stakes. We estimate that in 2011 more patents were granted to residents in China than in America. The quality of some Chinese patents may be dubious but they will surely improve. The World Economic Forum’s “World Competitiveness Report” ranks China 31st out of 142 countries on the quality of its maths and science education, well ahead of America’s 51st place. China’s external financial clout also beats America’s hands down. It has total net foreign assets of $2 trillion; America has net debts of $2.5 trillion.Wait a minute, the US must be number one in something.
Yes, dear reader, we can hold our heads up high. We are still number one in zombies. When it comes to consuming, rather than producing...we’re in the lead. Out in front. We buy more and import more than anyone.
And we’re way ahead on the most zombie industry of all — the military. Heck, China won’t catch up with us on military spending until 2025, estimates The Economist.
Then what? What will happen when China spends more on its military than the US? Hmmm....
We’re not going to think about it. Too far in the future. Here at The Daily Reckoning we take it one day at a time. Day after day...we follow the news. Day after day, we try to make sense of it...we squint and try to see what is going on. And day by day, we think we see it more clearly. It is like the early morning. In the half light we can barely make out the shapes. A house in the distance could be a small hillock. A tree could be a cloud on the horizon. And what is that moving...?
Then, the light comes and the figures become more distinct...2012 comes into focus...
..and then it grows dark again.
for The Daily Reckoning