Why has the West nervously predicted when China’s economy will overtake the United States?

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It is not surprising that it is increasingly fashionable to predict the evolution of the Chinese economy. China is the world’s second largest economy and its steady growth is enough to influence economic trends and decisions in many countries.

But which data on China is most important and which is not is a matter of opinion.

For example, US media recently cited the latest projections from the Center for Economics and Business Research, a British think tank, which said China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2030, two years behind its previous projections. The Japanese Center for Economic Research in Tokyo, meanwhile, estimates that the overshoot point will not be reached until 2033, four years later than expected.

Most recent Western media reports share the same judgment that China’s economic scale overtaking the United States will be delayed, and some scholars even pessimistically predict that such overtaking is no longer possible.

Most Western predictions for China over the past two decades have failed, and the analytical models that Western academics have built based on their economic theories have often failed to hold when it comes to China.

Yet academics and politicians are always happy to throw away data. This is partly because they still insist that only data models built on the basis of Western economic theory can predict China’s economy more accurately. It is also because they care too much about China’s development. Take away their forecast for the Chinese economy, and no one cares about their global macroeconomic forecast.

Of course, there is a background to the recent resurgence in whether China’s economy will outgrow the size of the United States – the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. How the Chinese economy emerges from the epidemic and regains its footing is as much a Chinese problem as it is a global one.

The difference is that the Chinese are no longer concerned with outdoing the United States or winning and replacing the United States in a “competition” that American politicians are trying to set up, but are more concerned with how to put order in China’s own affairs. It became the top-down consensus.

This consensus has been formed over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, and it is far more important than any data in interpreting China’s past, present and future.

The Chinese know that even if the total economic volume exceeds that of the United States, it will not be possible to replace the United States in the global economy. Moreover, with a large population and a GDP per capita ranked 60th (2021), it needs a long time to strive for further progress.

Then it is necessary to ask rhetorically why American and Western elites are still thinking about when China will overtake the United States in terms of economic size. This is because the rise of China has touched their deepest sense of superiority, a psychological superiority that has developed over five hundred years of Western expansion. Envy, jealousy, distrust and fear in the face of China’s rise, all these emotional changes stem in fact from the psychological perception that Western civilization is unsurpassable.

Two other recent statistics should receive more considerable attention, if anyone wants to have a more accurate prediction of China’s future.

The first is that India has overtaken the UK to become the fifth largest economy in the world. 17 years after China overtook the UK, India has become another developing country to enter the world’s top five economies.

IMF data shows that as early as 2007, the total economic volume of emerging markets and developing countries at purchasing power parity exceeded that of developed economies and reached 57.9% of the global share in 2021. This share is expected to exceed 60% by 2026. , reaching 1.5 times that of developed economies.

The second number is that life expectancy in China already exceeds that of the United States.

In 2019, life expectancy in the United States was 78.8 years, 1.5 years higher than that of China. In 2021, that number fell to 76.1 years, the lowest point in 26 years, while life expectancy in China was 78.2 years. An important background factor is that China and the United States have adopted different policies in response to the epidemic.

The author is an editor of People’s Daily and currently a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina

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