Speed Reads


China to overtake U.S. as world's largest economy this year

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The U.S. — the world's largest economy since the 1880s — is on the verge of losing its status as the world's largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, says the International Comparison Program, part of the World Bank.

In 2005, the World Bank estimated China's economy was less than half the size of America's, equaling just 43 percent of America's total output. But in 2011 the research placed China's GDP at 87 percent of the U.S., reflecting China's staggeringly enormous economic growth, as well as an updated methodology on purchasing power parity (the amount of goods and services money buys) that recognizes that money goes much further in developing economies than it does in wealthier economies.

With China's economy now expected to have grown 24 percent between 2011 and 2014 while the U.S. is expected to expand only 7.6 percent in that period, China is on course to overtake the U.S. this year. China has already overtaken the U.S. as the world's largest trading nation.

The new measurements dramatically change the shape of the global economic landscape, emphasizing the importance of developing economies. For example, India becomes the world's third-largest economy having previously been in tenth place. The size of its economy also dramatically expanded from the equivalent of 19 percent of the U.S. economy in 2005 to 37 percent in 2011. Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico have also grown significantly.

Of course, the U.S. remains vastly ahead of China in terms of economic activity per person. The U.S. has just 4.44 percent of the world's population, while China has 19.1 percent, so it is unsurprising to see China catch the U.S. in terms of total activity. But in terms of economic activity per person, the U.S. is further down the list, in sixth place behind Qatar, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, and Brunei.