With a fifth of the world's population and a supercharged economy on pace to surpass Germany and become the world's third largest by the end of 2007, China is booming. Beijing reported that China's $2.8 trillion economy grew just shy of 12% in the second quarter, its fastest clip in 12 years. Investment in public works projects, which account for about 9% of the GDP, shot up an astounding 25.9% in the first half of 2007.
In the 1990s, the country of 1.3 billion began a monumental undertaking: building the tens of thousands of miles of modern roads and highways that today crisscross the nation (rivaling the best in the United States and Europe). Even so, after decades of under-investment, China is still playing catch-up to bring its largely antiquated infrastructure up to snuff. After all, building a global economy requires reliable communications networks, efficient transportation systems, dependable energy sources and clean water.
Today, an unprecedented infrastructure build-out is consuming half of the world's cement, 40% of its steel and 20% of its copper. (Approximately 45% of China's copper is used for carrying electrical current and generating power, and the demand for copper is increasing 20% annually.)