Shin Cheol-soo no longer sees his future in the United States.
The South Korean businessman supplied components to American automakers for a decade. But this year, he uprooted his family from Detroit and moved home to focus on selling to the new economic superpower: China.
In just five years, China has surpassed the United States as a trading partner for much of the world, including U.S. allies such as South Korea and Australia, according to an Associated Press analysis of trade data. As recently as 2006, the U.S. was the larger trading partner for 127 countries, versus just 70 for China. By last year the two had clearly traded places: 124 countries for China, 76 for the U.S.
In the most abrupt global shift of its kind since World War II, the trend is changing the way people live and do business from Africa to Arizona, as farmers plant more soybeans to sell to China and students sign up to learn Mandarin.
The findings show how fast China has ascended to challenge America's century-old status as the globe's dominant trader, a change that is gradually translating into political influence. They highlight how pervasive China's impact has been, spreading from neighbouring Asia to Africa and now emerging in Latin America, the traditional U.S. backyard.
Despite China's now-slowing economy, its share of world output and trade is expected to keep rising, with growth forecast at up to 8 per cent a year over the next decade, far above U.S. and European levels. This growth could strengthen the hand of a new generation of just-named Chinese leaders, even as it fuels strain with other nations.
Last year, Shin's Ena Industry Co. made half his sales of rubber and plastic parts to U.S. factories. But his plans call for China, which overtook the United States as the biggest auto market in 2009, to rise fivefold to 30 per cent of his total by 2015. He and his children are studying Mandarin.
"The United States is a tiger with no power," Shin said in his office, where three walls are lined with books, many about China. "Nobody can deny that China is the one now rising."