It was one of Mao's broad brushstroke-type pronouncements. Within 15 years, he proclaimed, the Chinese economy should surpass Britain's and catch up with that of the United States.
One has to wonder whether in 1973, the great man was giving any consideration to the degree with which the country, under his leadership, had missed the target.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the latest numbers issued by the World Bank have China edging out Britain for fourth place in the big economy league by a margin of just 0.0004%. Another estimate by PricewaterhouseCoopers has China surpassing the US in terms of purchasing power parity by 2050. I believe in layman's terms that means China will have the largest economy in the world.
In terms of speed of growth, there is no doubt China has the capacity to do that. It has a population several times the size of the United States, so even if it topped the US in terms of total GDP – no easy task as the US will continue to grow strongly – it will still mean the average GDP per capita of China will still only be a fraction of that of rich America.
The economy this year is growing at more than 10% yet again, in spite of earnest efforts by the government to slow it down with policies to cool the property market and the flood of loans from the banks. The skeptics argue that this cannot go on forever, and they are right. But China is running to reach a certain level of prosperity, and in doing so has built up an incredible momentum because of its size, and because of the very low level from which it started.
The amazing thing is that from the inside, the current rate of growth does not feel all that frothy. It still feels sustainable for the foreseeable future at something like current levels of growth.
How long? Well, not foreseeable. But the changes in the stock market are a good sign of sustainability. The markets are now back at the same levels as two years ago, and are likely to continue their way up.
A large amount of fakeness has been squeezed out of the markets in the past two years. They are now a more real and reflective picture of the economy as it stands than they have ever been before.
The China share markets are still messy, no doubt about it. But a recent comment from an English journalist that they are a "farce" caught my eye. Two years ago? Arguably true. Today? No.