The Bovespa stock index in Brazil has climbed more than 300% since 2002, riding the China wave.
China is buying coal mining equipment from Poland and drilling for oil and gas in Ethiopia and Nigeria. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Zambia's copper industry. It is the world's biggest market for mobile phones, headed for 520 million handsets this year. The list goes on.
Along with looking to other countries for goods for its people, China is also going far and wide in search of markets for its products.
In war-torn Liberia, where electricity is hard to come by, Chinese-made Tiger generators keep the local economy humming. Costlier Western brands, favored by aid agencies and diplomats, are beyond the reach of small business owners such as Mohammed Kiawu, 30, who runs a phone stall in the capital, Monrovia.
A used Tiger generator costs around $50, he said over the steady beat of his generator. "But even $250 is not enough to buy a used American or European generator. They are not meant for people like myself."
The Chinese generators are more prone to break down, Kiawu said. When the starter cable snapped on one, he replaced it with twine. But by making items for ordinary people, he predicted, China "will take control of the heart of the common people of Africa soon."
China is having to make up for decades of economic stagnation after the communist takeover in 1949.
When Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping began dabbling in economic reforms in 1978, farmers were scraping by. By 2005, income had increased sixfold after adjusting for inflation to $400 a year for those in the countryside and $1,275 for urban Chinese, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.
"The Chinese don't want war — the Chinese just want to trade their way to power," said David Zweig, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "In the past, if a state wanted to expand, it had to take territory. You don't need to grab colonies any more. You just need to have competitive goods to trade."
If China stays on the same economic track, it would become the world's largest economy in 2027, surpassing the United States, according to projections by Goldman, Sachs & Co., a Wall Street investment bank. And unlike Japan, which rose in the 1980s only to fade again, China still has a huge pool of workers to tap and an emerging middle class that is just starting to reach critical mass. Many development economists believe China still has 20 years of fairly high growth ahead.
But the transition to a larger presence on the global stage comes with growing pains, for China and the rest of the world.
As Beijing plays an ever bigger role in the developing world, some Western countries fear it could undermine efforts to promote democracy. In its attempt to secure markets and win allies, China is stepping up development aid to Africa and Asia. Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged last year to double Chinese aid to Africa between 2006 and 2009, promising $3 billion in loans, $2 billion in export credits and a $5 billion fund to encourage Chinese investment in Africa. China has also promised Cambodia a $600 million aid package and agreed to loan $500 million to the Philippines for a rail project.