China and the US have about the same GDP today, depending on what estimates you use.
in the very near future, China will have the largest, most powerful economy in the world. it may have it already. considering how much control the central gov't has over the nation, it probably is the single largest force in the international economy. for example, they control the yuan exchange rate and hold huge amounts of US dollars. we are one act of communist policy away from having a violently crashing dollar.
but they have an obedience problem. or, rather, a lack of disobedience problem that will force them to remain a commodity-driven economy until they shake it.
the US economy, more than any other, is driven by innovation. this is party because we have little respect for elders, tradition, the powers that be, or the opinions of our professors.
if Bill Gates or Fred Smith had listened to their parents, families, or professors, we wouldn't have Microsoft or FedEx today. most American companies founded since the 1950s probably have similar foundations.
so, China is great at copying things and that will take them through meteoric growth for the next decade or so and will probably produce several billionaires, but innovation is what we need more than anything else to go forward as a civilization or even as a species and innovation is what Americans and the American system are the best in the world at.
this rant was inspired by a CNN article this morning about how fans in China are being trained in what sorts of cheering are appropriate for the Olympics.
please note: no part of this is intended to be racist, xenophobic or similar. i'm just pointing out that different cultures are better and worse at different things. in many ways, i envy the order and efficiency with which China can operate. the US is a bit more chaotic and disobedient. that is the price we pay as a society to be able to be more innovative.