China's economy now second largest
Published 17/08/2010 | 04:42
China has eclipsed Japan as the world's second-biggest economy after three decades of blistering growth that put overtaking the US in reach within 10 years.
Japan is still far richer per person after confirming that economic output fell behind its giant neighbour for the three months ending June 30.
But the news is more proof of China's arrival as a force that is altering the global balance of commercial, political and military power.
Analysts are already looking ahead to when China might match the US in total output - which the World Bank and others say could be no more than a decade away.
"This means the world will pay more attention to China, especially when most Western countries are mired in the bog of debt problems," said economist Lu Zhengwei at Industrial Bank in Shanghai.
Unseating Japan - after earlier passing Germany, France and Britain - caps three decades of breakneck growth that has cemented a dramatic change in China's place in the world over just the past five years.
State-owned Chinese companies have emerged as major resource investors, pouring billions into mines and oil fields from Latin America to Iraq. Chinese pressure helped to win a bigger voice for developing economies in the World Bank and other global institutions.
On a human level, China's rise has allowed hundreds of millions of people to work their way out of poverty and sent a flood of students and tourists to the West. Its consumers are so avidly courted that companies from Detroit car makers to French handbag producers now design goods to suit them.
Still, China's rise has produced glaring contradictions. The wealth gap between an elite who profited most from three decades of reform and its poor majority is so extreme that China has dozens of billionaires, while average income for the rest of its 1.3 billion people is among the world's lowest.
By contrast, Japan's people still are among the world's richest, with a per capita income of £24,200 last year, compared with China's £2,300. So are Americans at £27,000, their economy still by far the world's biggest.