In less than a decade China could be the world’s largest economy. But its continued economic success is under threat from a resurgence of the state and resistance to further reform.

AT THE HEIGHT of the Qing dynasty, back in the 1700s, China enjoyed a golden age. Barbarians were in awe of the empire and rapacious foreigners had not yet begun hammering at the door. It was a shengshi, an age of prosperity. Now some Chinese nationalists say that, thanks to the Communist Party and its economic prowess, another shengshi has arrived. Last year China became the world’s biggest manufacturer, displacing America from a position it had held for more than a century. In less than a decade it could become the world’s largest economy. Foreigners are again agape.

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