A new study suggests China's economy has grown faster than previously thought, leading some analysts to predict that China could surpass the United States as the world's biggest economy by the end of the year.
The figures were released Wednesday in a report by the International Comparison Program, which is part of the United Nations.
The ICP evaluates economies based on purchasing power parity, or PPP, which estimates how much money can buy in different countries. Some economists say the method helps more accurately determine a country's relative economic output, since comparisons are complicated by exchange rates.
Using its latest data, which calculated living costs in 2011, the program said China's PPP was 20 percent higher than its previous estimate in 2005. Given China's rate of growth since then, many economists expect China to surpass the U.S. later this year.
In an article titled "Crowning the Dragon," The Economist predicted Wednesday that China will become "the world's pre-eminent country" by the end of 2014. It noted that "the American Century ends, and the Pacific Century begins." The Financial Times and The Guardian also published similar predictions.
But the PPP rate does not take into account a nation's wealth per person. When this is considered, China, with more than 1.3 billion people, is still considered a developing nation and ranks well behind the United States.
China's economy grew strongly at double-digit growth rates for most of three decades before slowing in recent years. In terms of gross domestic product, China is widely expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest economy, but many economists did not expect this to happen until later in the decade.
A government report Wednesday shows the U.S. GDP grew one-tenth of one percent in the first three months of 2014, which is much slower than the final quarter of 2013.
Data from the World Bank show the U.S. GDP was more than $16 trillion in 2012, while China's was more than $8.2 trillion. The GDP measures all the goods and services produced in a country.