Within 15 years, China's GDP, adjusted for purchasing power parity, will account for 21% of the global total, about the same share of total GDP as held by the U.S., also at 21%, and the European Union (EU), at 19%, says Ming-Jer Chen, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School.
As China grows in economic importance its middle class will surpass the American and European middle classes in size by 2020, with an estimated total of 200 million people says Chen. The U.S. middle class will total 186 million and the EU's 179 million.
One effect, Chen told a recent European conference, will be to transform the relationship between the Chinese and Western middle classes from cooperation to competition as they seek the same supplies, resources and jobs. At the same time, Chen said, China's economy, now manufacturing based, will become a near-equal mixture of manufacturing and services.