For the better part of 20 years, China has been the world's factory. Its low labor costs have helped tamp down inflation in developed nations by allowing them to import cheap, Chinese-made goods. The torrent of foreign direct investment that flowed into mainland China - some 900 billion US dollars since 1990 - helped finance factories along the southeastern coast slaking the global thirst for inexpensive goods. It also underpinned phenomenal economic growth. The country's GDP grew from 357 billion US dollars in 1990 to 9.3 trillion US dollars last year, a nearly thirty-fold increase in a single generation. But that growth also spurred deep social changes. Millions migrated from inland, rural provinces to coastal cities in search of manufacturing jobs, and some 300 million Chinese vaulted into the middle class. The net result: China's days as the world's low-cost factory are numbered. They're going to be buyers now. (VIEW LINK)