"Japan lost its 42-year ranking as the world's second-biggest economy to China in 2010, with data out Monday showing a contraction in the last quarter due to weak consumer spending and a strong yen.
While Japan was expected to fall behind a surging China in the year, the data underlined the weak state of a Japanese economy burdened by deflation, soft domestic demand and pressured by the industrialised world's biggest debt.
"It is difficult for the deflation-plagued Japanese economy to achieve self-sustained growth," said Naoki Murakami, chief economist at Monex Securities.
While China's leap forward reflects a shift in economic power as the country transforms itself from poverty-hit communist state to global heavyweight, it highlights the need for shrinking Japan to energise its economy, analysts said.
Japan's post-war "economic miracle" put it at number two behind the United States for more than four decades, but stagnation after the Japanese property bubble burst in the 1990s helped put booming China on course to supplant its neighbour.
However, Japan remains around 10 times richer on a per-capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Predictions vary as to when China may overtake the United States as number one economy, but it should happen by 2025, according to estimates by the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and others."
Talking Points Memo: "Japan eclipsed by China as world's second economy"