There is a Chinese blessing (or curse, if you will) that states, "May you live in interesting times." There's no proof of its Chinese origins, despite its fortune cookie-esque feel, but for those doing business in China, it's certainly fitting. Every financial rag these days carries a discussion of China's booming economy, but three recent stories really drive home China's growing importance to the global economy.

China's aggressive use of raw materials probably gets the most press, and rightfully so. BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), an Australia-based global commodities giant, recently indicated that China is likely to overtake Japan as the company's largest customer. BHP mines and sells everything from fossil fuels to precious metals. According to CEO Chip Goodyear, sales in China for the year ending June 30, 2005, will be nearly $3.3 billion, for a fivefold increase over the past four years, thanks to soaring Chinese demand for all sorts of raw materials.

The second story to catch my eye relates to China's burgeoning beer industry, a topic that created a lot of press last year. InBev's (OTC BB: IBRWF) chairman, Pierre Jean Everaert, told reporters that his company expects to generate a third of its cash flow from China by 2010. InBev's total cash flow from operations in 2004 was 1.4 billion euro ($1.7 billion), giving us a glimpse of the hefty profits to be expected from China. With 28 production sites in China, the Belgian company is China's third-largest brewer in a market that's growing 7%-10% a year. It's no wonder Motley FoolInside Valuepick Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD)was willing to pay up for Harbin Brewery last year.

Finally, in a story a little closer to home, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) announced it was increasing its equity investment in Southern China's Coffee Concepts from 5% to 51%. Coffee Concepts, a joint venture between Maxim's Caterers Ltd and Starbucks, operates licensed Starbucks stores in China's Guangdong province. Apparently, selling coffee in China is such good business for Starbucks that the Seattle company is starting up another joint venture with Coffee Concepts to operate stores in the Chengdu province. This time, though, Starbucks is keeping 70% of the business.

These three unrelated stories are all linked by a common thread: that China is, and will continue to be, a good place to do business. For an ostensibly Communist country, China obviously understands capitalism, with some of the world's largest corporations trying to get in on the ground floor. Just as economic power shifted from Europe to the United States more than a century ago, we may be witnessing the early days of the next economic superpower. And that means we certainly do live in interesting times.

For more good fortune and insight into our interesting times, sign up for a free 30-day subscription to Motley Fool Inside Value.

Fool contributor Chris Mallon owns shares of Anheuser-Busch. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.