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After four disappointing years, Chinese economists have realized that slowing GDP growth — from a post-crisis peak of 12.8 percent in 2010 to about 7 percent today — is mainly structural, rather than cyclical. In other words, China’s potential growth rate has settled onto a significantly lower plateau. While the country should be able to avoid a hard landing, it can expect annual growth to remain at 6-7 percent over the next decade. But this may not necessarily be bad news.

One might question why GDP in China, where per capita income recently surpassed $7,000, is set to grow so much more slowly than Japan’s did from 1956 to 1970, when the Japanese economy, with per capita income starting from about $7,000, averaged 9.7 percent annual growth. The answer lies in potential growth.

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