China, the world's biggest auto market, is becoming General Motors' No. 1 market, as well.

China, the world’s biggest auto market, is becoming General Motors’ No. 1 market, as well.

In the first six months of 2010, GM and its Chinese venture partners sold 1,209,138 vehicles in China, for the first time beating GM’s six-month U.S. sales total of 1,069,577 vehicles.

GM’s U.S. sales are recovering, even though the automaker is retiring or selling half its domestic brands as part of a radical restructuring that included a stint in bankruptcy last year. GM’s U.S. sales were up 14.3 percent in the first half of 2010.

But in the booming Chinese market, GM and its local ventures registered a 48.5 percent sales surge for the first six months to record levels.

GM has profited from the growth in China, where it has a strong presence. Among foreign companies, it ranks second in sales with its venture partners after Germany’s Volkswagen, which also counts China as its biggest market.

China became the world’s biggest auto market in 2009 and is widening its lead. In the first five months of 2010, Chinese auto sales totaled 7.1 million, compared with 4.6 million car and light-truck sales in the United States in the same period.

Although demand in China slowed in June, GM and its ventures reported a 23.2 percent rise in June sales to 176,486.

Sales of GM’s main Shanghai GM venture rose 18.9 percent to 71,782 cars and light trucks, bolstered by growing demand for Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick models.

The Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Cruze and New Sail saw big gains. Under Chinese law, foreign carmakers may only produce vehicles in China in ventures with local makers.

GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry also are partners in a venture that makes mini-vehicles, small vanlike vehicles that double as commercial vehicles and family cars.

Sales of the partners’ Wuling mini-vehicles rose 19.7 percent last month to 99,115 units. Sales of the FAW-GM new commercial-vehicle venture totaled 5,220 units.

“GM and its joint ventures are in the midst of refreshing their product lineup with new models such as the Chevrolet New Sail hatchback and Buick Excelle GT small car,” GM said.