The Chinese economy is one of the wonders of the modern world. From constituting a tiny part of global GDP in 1978 at the start of the great transformation, China stood, in 2011, as the world’s second-largest economy (it had overtaken Japan in this position a year earlier), making up over 15 per cent of the world’s economy. It was the world’s largest holder of foreign reserves, its largest exporter, second-largest importer and the largest user of all energy sources, apart from oil, where it stood a very close second to the USA. In terms of productivity, Chinese leaders were keen to say that, since the early 1980s, China’s economy had grown by 10 per cent per year. Even after the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, China managed to add 40 per cent to its economy at a time when the rest of the developed world was stagnant. In the decade after its entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, China quadrupled the size of its economy. In terms of the rate and gross size of growth, China was either at the top of data tables, or very close to it. Predictions of when it would overtake the USA to be the world’s largest economy varied between 2015 and 2035 — it was a question, in any case, not of if, but when — and the end date for this to happen was frequently revised downwards (BBC News, 14 February 2011).
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