The most China can realistically do for the struggling global economy is to ensure its own growth holds up, and that won't be nearly enough to lift the world.
Visions of China putting its $3.2 trillion in reserves to work by launching another government spending spree or buying up European bonds ignore the political and economic reality that China, like any other country, puts its own needs first.
Right now, China's economy doesn't need more stimulus and its leaders are wary of making bad bets on European debt, which means if conditions worsen in the United States or Europe, China would respond only if and when trouble shows up at home.
But even if you sweep aside domestic considerations and imagine Beijing announced $600 billion in government spending, like it did after the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, there is little chance it could deliver the same economic boost.
What ended the post-Lehman panic was a globally synchronised, massive infusion of government spending and interest rate cuts. The United States and Europe cannot deliver significant doses of either right now, and China alone can't compensate.
"China to the rescue? Mission impossible," said Jun Ma, Deutsche Bank's chief economist for China, based in Hong Kong.
To offset the impact of a 3 percent drop in US and European growth, China would need to increase its own growth by 18 percent, he said.
Image: Chinese premier Wen Jiabao seen at the 2011 World Economic Forum meeting
Text: Emily Kaiser, Reuters