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China; Innovation Mercantilism

America to Become # 2 Global Economy—And That’s Not Great News

In an op-ed for the Washington Post this past Sunday, Charles Kenny writes that America is No. 2! And that’s great news, referring to the day soon to come when China’s GDP surpasses that of the United States. Kenny writes that this is an eventuality that should not distress Americans, because “losing the title of largest economy doesn’t really matter much to Americans’ quality of life,” particularly because it is America’s superior per-capita GDP that matters more than aggregate GDP, and so “living in an America that ranks second in GDP to China will still be far, far better than living in China.” While certainly Kenny is correct that average per-capita GDP is the proper measuring stick, there are actually a number of compelling reasons why China’s impending eclipse of U.S. GDP will not be the sanguine moment Kenny characterizes it as.

First, the United States has held its position as the world’s largest economy since surpassing Britain for that distinction in 1871; that the United States should be losing that position in 2016 or 2017 is not preordained. Many argue that China’s immense population of 1.36 billion people,

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