Nightly News   |  February 09, 2010

The American economy, made in China

Future Shock: Beijing is America's number one banker, holding $790 billion of U.S. debt. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> bound richlt and on the issue of high debt levels saddling government's overseas and here at home, in our second of two reports this week, our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell reports tonight on how much of america's debt is currently owned by china, and why it could mean we're in for a real future shock in this country.

>> reporter: the breathtaking shanghai skyline tells the story. china is an economic powerhouse. does that mean it could become the world's next superpower? beijing is the world's number one banker holding $790 billion of u.s. debt . while most weren't looking, china has been swallowing up oil, gas, iron ore plants in asia, latin america and europe, close to $56 million in one year alone. investing in some of the best-known american brands , apple, coca-cola, johnson&johnson, morgan stanley and citigroup. it's watched the u.s. and western economies fall.

>> china is feeling its oats after the economic recession . they feel they came through it pretty well. they are feeling robust about their future, and so they sort of have a little bit of a swagger to their step.

>> reporter: flexes their muscles blocking sanctions on iran, threatening to retaliate u.s. arm sales to taiwan, imposing a climate change deal in copenhagen, opposing president obama 's meeting with the dalai lama. and yes, even though they had every right to do it, reclaiming those blofbled pandas. but for all its clout and increasing willingness to throw its weight around, china has its problems. remember all that toxic tooth paste, the lead paint in toys, the lack of regulation that cost the lives of thousands of children in the 2008 earthquake. many because of shoddy school construction leading to protests.

>> people are going to be demanding more things. they haven't been through the women's revolution, consumer revolution, internet revolution fully. they are going to have water problems. they may have their own financial bubble right now.

>> reporter: experts say eventually china will have to grant more freedom to its people if it wants to take its place as a true world power . andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.

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