BEIJING—China’s geopolitical rise over the past four decades has been fueled by sizzling economic growth that regularly featured years of double-digit percentage-point gains.
In 2020, China advanced its aspirations by simply emerging with its growth intact from a brutal year when a pandemic shook the world economy.
On Monday, Beijing said its gross domestic product rose 2.3% last year. While that is the weakest annual rate of growth since the Mao era, it was enough to make China the only major world economy to gain any ground at all last year, and accelerated its likely overtaking of the U.S. economy, economists say.
The World Bank projects the global economy to have pulled back by 4.3% last year, dragged down by a 7.4% contraction in the eurozone. The U.S., the world’s largest economy, is expected to have shrunk by 3.6%.