Courtesy Reuters

To be an economic superpower, a country must be sufficiently large, dynamic, and globally integrated to have a major impact on the world economy. Three political entities currently qualify: the United States, the European Union, and China. Inducing China to become a responsible pillar of the global economic system (as the other two are) will be one of the great challenges of coming decades -- particularly since at the moment China seems uninterested in playing such a role.

The United States remains the world's largest national economy, the issuer of its key currency, and in most years the leading source and recipient of foreign investment. The EU now has an even larger economy and even greater trade flows with the outside world, and the euro increasingly competes with the dollar as a global currency. China, the newest member of the club, is smaller than the other two but is growing

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  • C. FRED BERGSTEN is Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This essay is adapted from his forthcoming, co-authored book, China's Rise: Challenges and Opportunities (Peterson Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2008).
  • More By C. Fred Bergsten