Washington Post

The Chinese are now buying as much stuff as Americans, a game-changer for the world economy

Employees show a mattress to customers at a Shanghai Aiyingshi Co. Babemax store in Shanghai, China, on Dec. 22. Mother-baby retail chains such as Babemax emerged about a decade ago, mostly near hospitals with big maternity wards, and now account for half of all baby formula sales. Bloomberg photo by Qilai Shen

The mighty force of consumerism has taken hold in China. In 2018, retail sales in China are expected to equal or surpass sales in the United States for the first time, another definitive marker in China's rise to economic superpower status. The growth of China's domestic retail market is luring everyone from automakers to make up companies that want to cash in on the country's growing middle class, but it also serves as another complication in President Donald Trump's quest to transform U.S.-China trade.

Retail sales in China are on track to hit just over $5.8 trillion this year, according to Mizuho, a Japanese bank. It's a stunning rise from a decade ago, when retail sales in China were a quarter of those in the United States. China's rapidly growing middle class has been eager to buy brand-name clothes, cars and cellphones, among other products. Shanghai is now referred to in fashion circles as "Paris of the East." Their spending habits have been supported by fatter paychecks, with China's income per capita jumping from about $2,000 a year a decade ago to over $8,000 a year now...

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