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China at No. 1 -- already

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
  • The U.S. is by far the world's largest market, but China is coming up fast
  • A survey last year found 44 percent of Americans polled thought China was No. 1
  • China
  • United States

(CNN) -- As this interactive from CNNMoney shows, the U.S. is still by far the world's largest economy, despite the Great Recession and tepid recovery.

But China is coming on strong, passing Japan as the world's second largest economy and predictions that sometime in the next 10 to 15 years it will eclipse the U.S., too.

Some think it's already happened. A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 44 percent of Americans already thought China had become the world's number one economic power. Only 27 percent knew that the U.S. economy is still on top, nearly three times the size of China.

Still, there are several areas where China has already taken the mantle from the U.S. China has become the world's largest car market, a symbolic transition after the recession left Detroit in shambles. But some may not know that before cars, Chinese beer drinkers passed U.S. as top consumers in 2002, and now knock back nearly a quarter of all beer produced in the world.

Beijing is aiming to steer its economy away from exports toward domestic consumption -- and, in doing so, will inevitably supplant the U.S. as the top market destination for consumer goods.

"We expect China will overtake the U.S. as the largest consumer market in 2020," Fan Cheuk Wan, head of research for Credit Suisse Asia Pacific, told CNN.

If so, China will reach its goal of having half its GDP generated by domestic consumption in the next 10 years; currently about 33 percent of China's economy comes from domestic spending, Wan said.

"China cannot rely on the indebted consumers in the developed economies any more as a key growth engine in the next decade," Wan said.

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