In this era of global economic downturn, two countries, Germany and China, aren't doing too shabbily. Now they can't be further apart: Germany is a stable democracy with a mature economy and China is an authoritarian government with a nascent yet rapidly growing economy.
So, why are they surviving the recession better than the rest of us? Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post suggests an interesting answer: It's The Factories, Stupid.
What sets them apart from the world's other major powers, purely and simply, is manufacturing. Their predominantly industrial economies meet their own needs and those of other nations, and have made them flourish while others flounder. [...]
For the past three decades, with few exceptions, America's CEOs, financiers, establishment economists and editorialists assured us that the transition from a manufacturing to a post-industrial economy was both inevitable and positive: American workers would move to more productive jobs, and the nation's financial security would only grow. But after rising steadily during the quarter-century following World War II, wages have stagnated since the manufacturing sector began to contract.
Harold went on to explain why most Americans are wrong when thinking that we can't compete with China's cheap labor (after all, Germany's labor cost is even more expensive than ours): Link