Amid feverish speculation among pundits and laymen about when China will overtake the U.S. and in what sense, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has now settled on 2049. That conveniently marks the centenary of the People's Republic.
According to the China Daily, the academy said in a report that the 21st century will be dominated by China in the same way that the 20th was the American Century. It claimed the projection is based on research on the "national health" of the two countries.
The academy is one of the country's leading think tanks.
It ranked 100 countries around the world on a "national health index." The report defines national health as the overall operational condition of a country, using resource sufficiency and wealth distribution as the major criteria. It analyzed "factors such as natural and economic immunity, national decision-making and enforcement capacity and national responsibilities."
With 2011 as the base year, China ranked 11th and the U.S. 27th, according to the report. The academy says the U.S. is suffering from major "illnesses," including a bubble economy, a widening gap between the rich and poor and fiscal deficit and described America as a textbook "consumption-driven" country.
In contrast, the report describes China as "production-driven" suffering from excessive labor. In terms of a life cycle, the U.S. is in the menopausal stage and China in the adolescent stage, it adds.
Sweden was rated as the healthiest nation, followed by Norway and Finland. Germany came 12th, France 15th and Japan 35th. Korea ranked 26th and was classified along with the U.S., UK, Italy and Japan as facing danger signs to its national health.
Based on the index, China already overtook the U.S. back in 2007. It will overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP in 2019 and in an "all-around way" by 2049, it added.
But the report has attracted derision in China. Not only is the concept of national health vague, the methodology involved in the research is far from transparent, critics say. Chinese websites were flooded with comments wondering how China, which is plagued by many social problems, could be considered healthier than the U.S.