China's economy is best-known as a manufacturing hub for the rest of the world. But fresh data on worldwide personal computer shipments indicate that the Chinese consumer sector is stirring, too.

The world's largest market for personal computers isn't the U.S. anymore. According to International Data Corp., 18.5 million PCs were shipped for sale in China during the second quarter, topping the U.S.'s 17.7 million. That gives China a 22 percent share of the global PC market.

As those PCs settle into Chinese offices, homes and factories, it's inevitable that they will bring profound -- and mostly positive -- social changes, too. Middle managers will gain access to more data, widening the way power is distributed in big organizations. Adults will stretch their horizons. Children will come up with computer pursuits the rest of us can't foresee.

The world is still getting used to China's industrial might.  China's consumer sector isn't just full of distant promise; it already is emerging in some ways as the world's biggest.

(George Anders is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)