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Chart: Is U.S. or China the World’s Economic Superpower?

Chart: Is U.S. or China the World's Economic Superpower?

Is U.S. or China the World’s Economic Superpower?

Popular opinion changes depending on where you live

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the world has had one undisputed economic superpower: the United States.

But while the U.S. has enjoyed its moment in the sun, the balance of power has been slowly shifting towards the inevitable rise of China. It’s been a long time coming, but China now has the manpower, influence, and economic might to compete at a similar level – and if you ask people around the world, they’ve certainly taken notice.

Economic Superpowers

The United States and China combine for 39% of global GDP, 53% of estimated economic growth in the coming years, and 23% of the world’s population.

But which one is perceived as the more dominant economic power?

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, the vary wildly depending on the people and country surveyed. However, on an aggregate level that uses the results from the people in 38 countries surveyed, Pew determined that a median of 42% of people list the United States as the world’s leading economic power, while 32% name China as top dog.

Which one of the following do you think is the world’s leading economic power?

RankCountryGlobal median (%)
#1United States42%
#2China32%
#3Countries of the EU9%
#4Japan7%
#5Other / None10%

While the U.S. maintains a narrow lead in aggregate, things get much more interesting when we look at individual countries.

Different Perspectives

Do America’s closest allies view it as the clear global superpower? What about the countries that neighbor China – surely, they must witness China’s economic might firsthand.

Weirdly, the dominant perspectives in these places are not as obvious as one would think.

More people living in Canada, Australia, and major European countries like France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom tend to view China as the global economic superpower.

Meanwhile, the majority of people in South American and African countries see the United States as the world’s major economic power – and people in countries near China (such as South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam) all tend to agree with that sentiment as well.

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