Hot on the heels of a report from the World Bank saying China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy this year comes the news that China really, really wishes it weren't.
A person involved in preparing the report told the Financial Times that "China wanted to throw this out. They don't want to be seen as number one. They're worried about the political implications with the U.S." They added: "[China] begged and threatened for a whole year... China hates it."
In another surprise, China's state media did not even mention the country's ascension to the No. 1 spot in the World Bank report. One would think that being coronated as the world's largest economy, a title held by the U.S. since the 1880s, would be seen as a crowning achievement after three decades of rapid economic growth. But China's leaders, according to the FT, are concerned that with great power comes great responsibility.
On the basis of economic activity per person, China is still a relatively poor country. This means that it does not want to be asked to do too much on the international stage.
The U.S. — as the world's largest economy — takes a very large role in international security, with its navy patrolling global shipping lanes, for example, and providing by far the largest national contribution of funding for international institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. With China now on the cusp of being ranked as the world's largest economy, China fears it may be called on to play a bigger role.