The current issue of The Economist magazine kicks off a weekly special section on China, which is a magnet for multinational PR firms. It’s the first time the British publication has singled out a country for coverage since 1942 when the U.S. was deemed noteworthy enough for its own section.

the economistThe editors say China gets its own pages because it is “now an economic superpower and is fast becoming a military force capable of unsettling America.” They also note that the country’s politics is “governed by a system that is out of step with global norms.”

The Economist believes that China in this age of social media must ease its tight control over free expression because “angry people can talk to each other, as they never could before, through the Internet.” The country must master the “art of letting go.”

China’s development is more than an intellectual interest to those outside the country, say the editors. “Whether the country continues as an authoritarian colossus, stagnates, disintegrates, or, as we would wish becomes both freer and more prosperous will not just determine China’s future, but shape the rest of the world’s too.”

In the mind of The Economist, China has far to go to catch the U.S. The U.S. merits six pages of coverage in the current issue, led by an article headlined “Newt’s (fleeting moment), a profile of New York Governor and Democratic rising star Andrew Cuomo, immigration reform and the future outlook of coal as America’s primary source.

China gets four pages with stories on the communist party’s foray into capitalism, capital punishment, tobacco boom and tribalism of city dwellers.

The U.S. edition of the 169-year-old magazine gives Britain three pages. Talk about a changing of the international guard.