In a recent column, I observed that by many measures, China is the world's largest economy. This means a number of benefits will flow — and indeed are already flowing — to China that used to go to the United States and Europe. Chief among these is agglomeration, or the tendency of businesses to seek out the biggest markets and the densest concentrations of economic activity.

Being the center of the global economy really does have value.

But nothing is certain, especially in realms as complex as economics and politics. China's vast size is indisputable, but it might easily make mistakes that would prevent the country from leveraging that size for maximum economic benefit. Chief among these self-inflicted wounds would be closing the country to foreign investment, extending state control of the economy and adopting an adversarial relationship with neighboring nations. Ominously, the country seems to be doing all of these now, to one extent on another.