ECONOMISTS are living in a 'wonderful fantasy' if they believe the Chinese economy is going to be the world's driving force in the 21st century, Germany's top Sinologist told an international conference on China and the world yesterday. He accused the International Monetary Fund and World Bank of not taking account of political instability after the death of Deng Xiaoping or the potential for conflicts around East Asia in its belief that the Chinese economy would continue to grow at the same pace into the 21st century. 'They are chasing the 18th-century dream of the wealth of the Orient,' Professor Rudolf Wagner, the head of the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University told the conference in Oslo, Norway. Professor Wagner claimed current rates of growth would not continue with China's poor level of investment in education and training. China now only ranked 130th in the world league in terms of education and the quality of people entering fields like engineering was 'hopeless'. He contrasted the mainland with Taiwan, which had never repressed its intelligentsia and where education levels were much higher. 'We have a situation where the underlying political and social weaknesses are totally disregarded,' he said. Professor Wagner told the conference that the three policy research offices of the Communist Party Central Committee, State Council and the Central Military Commission analysis of economic growth over the last 30 months completely left out the issue of whether the party or even the country would stay unified. By contrast, US Pentagon studies this year saw 50 contenders for the leadership after the death of Mr Deng and the possibility of the state falling apart. But he said these scenarios for China's future could be self-fulfilling, 'provoking what they are trying to prevent'. They created a nervousness within China and hopes that a new authoritarian figure would take a lead. 'In that situation the plausibility of somebody coming up as a neo-authoritarian is a distinct possibility,' he said.