Friday, October 08, 2010

Would you like fries with that?

This enchanting photo appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. What we see here is one of 105 drive-through McDonald's fast-food restaurants now open for business in China, with 100 more planned for each of the next three years.

It's all part of China's discovery of the joys of the automotive culture. The country has built 30,000 miles of expressways in the past ten years. Chinese households and businesses bought 13.6 million vehicles in 2009, substantially more than the 10.4 sold in the U.S. (which, to be sure, was the smallest deluge of autos and light trucks in 27 years). China is now the world's largest automotive market, though it will take a while before the number of cars on China's roads approaches those in the United States.

All of which is grist for the doomsayers who predict that China is about to replace the U.S. as the world's dominant economy. Yet the odd thing about this supposed transition is that, when America took off in the 1950s, it was creating something never seen in the world before. China by contrast is more or less replicating what happened here half a century ago. Does that mean that nothing new will ever happen again, and that the whole world is about to be Americanized? Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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