Merry Christmas! I'm in China, where the consumerism part of the Christmas spirit is going strong indeed. The bustle and prosperity around me tells me that China's economy is indeed having a very good year, just as it has had in the past thirty years of uninterrupted economic growth averaging 9.9% a year.
The Economist predicts that China will overtake the US by 2020 as the world's largest economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, it will happen in 2016 - barely 5 years from now. Other experts say that based on purchasing power parity, this date will actually occur in 2015. There's an interactive feature on the Economist that you can play around with and input growth figures in to predict this date.
If that holds true, then in a decade, we'll no longer be looking at American retailing figures during the holiday season, but instead start worrying about Chinese sales figures during the same period of time. As I throng the malls at Xidan with what seems like the entirety of Beijing's youth population on Christmas Eve, I am amazed by all the trappings of unrestricted spending around me. Stores hold timed discounts, loudspeakers blast sales information, and huge electronic billboards flash and scream at the crowd. Sometimes, lines at cash registers can even snake out of stores. It is not at all a stretch to say that this is even more overwhelming than Times Square.
Here are some pictures to give you a sense of what Christmas in China is like.