Two graphs show the average growth required for GDP to double over a set number of years (%) and GDP per capita, Chinese as a% of US levels

China / GDP: Think of a number

China already has the second largest economy in the world. It will double in the next 15 years, said the country’s president, Xi Jinping. Brave man. That envisions an economy of nearly $ 30 billion at today’s prices and exchange rates, again about half the size of the United States today.

China’s economy is planned. It has become an art to hit targets – sometimes with numbers that statisticians doubt. It has doubled in real terms five times since 1980. Mr. Xi’s great vision implies annual growth of less than 5 percent. In the three decades up to 2011, growth fell only a few times below the magical 8 percent – the level that ensures high employment and thus social stability. There have been several double-digit spurts of expansion lubricated by government spending since the millennium.

Few other countries can achieve this in this day and age, and certainly none of China’s magnitudes. From 1980 onwards, in line with the global economy, the US did not come there until 2002. Britain was four years behind. Japan’s lost decades are fading into the background: after a 50 percent increase in the go-go 1980s – an era of lavish parties that culminated in a $ 1.4 billion purchase of New York’s Rockefeller Center – doubled In 2016 it is only Argentina, where GDP briefly doubled in the last decade, but then fell back again.

Countries that start from tiny bases, of course, do better: tiny Bhutan has doubled four times since the 1980s, with the Maldives not far behind.

The correlation between buoyant economies and their markets suggests that investors should be aware. China’s quasi-capitalism skews the picture, but Japan and America illustrate the impact of stagnant and healthy growth on businesses and real estate.

As with most rankings, absolute size and gross domestic product growth is of course more about boastful rights than anything else. More important to grassroots citizens is GDP per capita, another measure that Mr Xi is confident of doubling over.

The Lancet, a medical journal, predicts that China’s population will shrink in just four years and, like many other nations, halve by the turn of the century. This is a drastic prophecy, based in part on decades of one-child policy. Of course, this should make it even easier to achieve the secondary production target per capita.

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