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The rise and rise of China

CHINA has overtaken Japan, becoming the world's biggest economy after the United States. Forecasters now say that it could reach the top spot in 15 to 30 years if it continues to register annual growth rates close to 10pc.

Its new status had been widely predicted, but it is unquestionably a gigantic achievement.

The China we know rose from the ashes of a collapsed empire, a devastating war and the crazy "cultural revolution".

The human effort and brainpower involved are simply incalculable.

At one level, one can only view with awe the achievements of its leaders. They have made a poverty-stricken, ungovernable country into a power to shake the world. At another level, the government system appears bizarre, neither capitalist nor communist but a mixture of both. Either way, nobody doubts that the awakened giant must be taken into every calculation.

Whether it can continue to grow at an unbelievable pace, and whether it can exert commensurate political clout, remains in doubt. Some analysts argue that it will not progress unless it liberalises further and adopts the Western democratic model.

Meanwhile, however, it has unquestionably changed the global balance of power and its leaders boast, as they have every right to do, of how they have reversed the humiliations of centuries.

Events of this magnitude bring exceptional dangers and opportunities, and Irish entrepreneurs have been quick to seize opportunities in the new China.

There is no limit to today's horizons.