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China may overtake France in economy
Updated: 2006-01-23 09:12

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- China probably overtook France as the world's fifth-largest economy in 2005 as a record trade surplus and surging investment drove the fourth straight year of more than 9 percent growth.

Gross domestic product increased 9.8 percent, according to the median estimate of 23 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The economy grew 10.1 percent to $2 trillion in 2004. The statistics bureau will probably report GDP and other economic data for 2005 on Jan. 25 in Beijing.

The government is stepping up efforts to increase consumer spending in a nation where per capita incomes are still a 16th of France's, supporting the economy as it curbs runaway investment in steel plants and real estate. That may bolster demand for Ford Motor Co. cars and Nokia Oyj cell phones and help push China past the U.K. as the fourth-largest economy this year.

``China's economy will have very strong growth but the model will be different,'' said Jason Jiang, chief executive of Focus Media, China's biggest outdoor advertising company, which counts Nokia and Ford among its clients. ``Chinese people now have greater purchasing power and they are willing to spend because they are more optimistic about the future.''

A nationwide census completed last year revealed millions of previously unaccounted-for companies in service industries such as retailing, real estate and the Internet. The survey led officials to conclude that the economy was $284 billion, or 17 percent, larger than previously thought in 2004.

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