A new survey from Pew Research says more Americans now view China as the world’s top economic power over the U.S., 41% to 40%. And a majority of survey responders in Germany (62%), Britain (58%), France (57%) and Spain (57%) say China is the world’s top economic power. Pew found a median 42% in 21 nations say China is the top economic power, versus 36% saying it’s the U.S.

It’s the perception, not the reality, that often matters.

And because China says it has been growing at such a torrid rate for years, it’s captured the imagination of many around the world that it is a burgeoning superpower. China passed Germany as the biggest exporter in 2009 and has overtaken Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy. But just listen to the Chinese themselves.

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