China has leapfrogged Japan to become the world's second-largest economy, a title Japan has held since 1968.
While Japan grew 3.9% last year – its first annual growth in three years – this was not enough to hold off China's booming economy. Japan's nominal GDP was $5.4742 trillion in 2010, less than China's total of $5.8786tn, according to official data released by Japan.
In the 1980s, Japan's economic ascent provoked both fear and admiration but the boom unravelled after the property bubble burst. It never fully recovered from the stagnation of the 1990s – its "lost decade" – and continues to struggle with deflation, an ageing population and ballooning public debt.
China is the world's largest car market and the biggest energy consumer.It now has its sights on the US, which it could eclipse as the world's largest economy sometime between 2020 and 2030. The country, which has successfully transformed itself from impoverished communist state to economic superpower, surpassed Germany to become the world's third largest economy four years ago.