The visual world economy

The depiction of the change in the top 10 economies over the last 60 years in the above graph is pretty mesmerizing. It tells you so much without the recourse to narrative description.

Below is a Google chart I generated of the top 10 economies in 2017 going back to the 1960s and plotting GDP per capita, log-transformed, vs. GDP, log-transformed.

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10 thoughts on “The visual world economy

  1. The rise of China is stunning, especially considering the damage down by Mao and his acolytes. I suspect if you did per caput GDP for the urbanized coastal region by itself, it would be even more dramatic. Three hundred million people raised from poverty to near “middle class” status in a generation.

    One quibble (of course). The data used appear to be nominal GDP. In PPP GDP, Russia’s economy is about 10% larger than Germany’s. PPP based data might rearrange the rankings.

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  2. What degree of trust should we put in Chinese economic statistics? My brother does a lot of business in China tells me that every Chinese business keeps multiple sets of books. Their revenues, expenses and profits differ dramatically depending on who is asking and why.

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  3. That post-crash Japanese shrinkage, tho.

    In 2018, India rises above the UK.

    Would be interesting to see a top 10 global ranking by PPP. Also the various per capita combinations: you’d see more small states with massive oil deposits (Kuwait) or outsized financial sectors (Luxemburg) or excellent planning (Singapore).

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  4. “What degree of trust should we put in Chinese economic statistics?” You only need to see the number of modern Chinese with huge amounts of disposable wealth to spend on conspicuous consumption of luxury goods, compared to the way people were in the 1980s/1990s, to get that the Chinese data are broadly right, at least in relative historical terms.

    My first trip into Mainland China was in 1982. No one owned a private car. No one. I traveled from south to north of the country, and everyone was on bicycles. The only powered vehicles on the roads were those huge black antiquated looking Chinese manufactured Red Flag limousines used for senior party members, big trucks, and two-wheeled farm tractors towing trailers. On the outskirts of Beijing I saw people driving mule carts. I’m not exaggerating – real live mules pulling carts. I had never seen a mule before.

    Fast forward to today – the roads are choked with privately owned luxury sedans, every European luxury marque you can think of. German car manufacturers have all opened factories in China. Hainan Island is full of Buicks, for reasons that escape me – I presume they have a factory there. Investment in roads and high speed rail has been massive. That alone has to tell you something.

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  5. @Tupac – On PPP, both Singapore and Hong Kong would rank high. In Hong Kong, 1 in every 7 people is (at least) a US$ millionaire (pretty stunning when you consider that ‘people’ is whole population, including children and elderly, in a rapidly ageing population).

    Conversely, 1 in every 5 is considered to be living below the poverty line – those are mostly elderly people. Social services are negligible. I don’t recall the numbers, but Hong Kong must have one of the highest Gini coefficients in the world. No real excuse for not having some decent kind of safety net for elderly people living in poverty – the government has a massive and ever growing fiscal surplus every year; mostly revenues from land sales.

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  6. Macau is pretty funny. All it has are casinos (well, plus some very interesting old Portuguese structures – they have done a generally better job than Hong Kong has in preserving built heritage, but then it was colonized very much earlier than Hong Kong – but most people who go there don’t go to look at the buildings or to sample the Portuguese and Macanese cuisine (although I suspect Razib would enjoy the fieriness of Macanese food, which curiously derives from African slaves, who distinguished themselves defending Macau against an attempted Dutch invasion in the Battle of Macau, particularly one notably fearsome African woman, and a Jesuit priest who turned out to be an expert gunner with a muzzle loading cannon), they go to gamble), so almost all of that comes from gambling revenues. PPP is no perfect measure of anything.

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  7. The data ends in 2017. 2019 is very different from 2018. In the year ending in Q2, 2018, India’s GDP grew by 8.2%. My projection is that GDP growth in both 2018 and 2019 will be about 8% with some upside out-performance possible.

    In nominal terms India crosses Germany for number 4 position in nominal terms circa 2021 and Japan for number 3 circa 2025. Or very soon. More quickly is also possible.

    John Massey, I have always had a deep fascination and admiration for Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world . The poverty line in Hong Kong is figured pre government assistance, ignores wealth, and is based only on income.

    The annual poverty number for a family of 3 is 180,000 HK dollars per year or $23,000 US dollars per year.

    As the population rapidly ages, it is inevitable that the reported poverty number will rise. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Hong Kong is too expensive a place for old people to retire because of rampant gentrification. Rather old Hong Kong retirees should be encouraged to retire in luxury in inexpensive parts of China, or for more adventurous retirees; Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myamnar, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia, Mongolia or India. [Cost of living in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia might be too high.]

    For retirees this is ideal.

    I think smaller government is best for most. Most people are intelligent and responsible, and will save enough. This has been the experience of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

    Big government reduces the real standard of living of most people.

    This said, many aspects of Hong Kong post 1997 have been troubling. Including the rise in corruption, which was unheard of before 2000. And the whittling of Hong Kong’s autonomy after the fabulous and strong willed Tung Chee-hwa retired. Until 2005, the rest of the world treated Hong Kong as de facto independent, including the IMF, World Bank, WTO, Asian Development Bank, Bank of International Settlements. The world negotiated separately with Hong Kong on requesting Hong Kong’s financial assistance and in terms of negotiating trade/business.

    Hong Kong’s autonomy further deteriorated after Donald Tsang’s retirement in 2012.

    Perhaps Donald Tsang was the last strong truly independent assertive CEO willing to stand up to China for Hong Kong’s interests.

    Hong Kong remains one of the greatest economic miracles in the history of the world.

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  8. AnAn: Donald Tsang is currently in prison.

    Tung Chee-hwa is not regarded fondly by locals, to put it mildly.

    I think I’ll leave it at that, and you can persuade the little old bent-over Cantonese ladies collecting cardboard boxes in the streets to sell for HK$10 a cart load so they can afford a very basic meal that day to go and live a life of luxury in Nepal, Laos or Myanmar.

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  9. “Donald Tsang is currently in prison.” Breaks my heart. I first learned about him back in 1993 when he was Secretary of the Treasury. I use to think, why can’t India have a Donald Tsang? Heck, why can’t America have a Donald Tsang?

    Back in the 1990s Hong Kong was the envy of the world. One of the least corrupt countries in the world. So sad this is no longer as true. [Still less corrupt than most European countries though.]

    “Tung Chee-hwa is not regarded fondly by locals, to put it mildly.” Sadly you are right. I don’t understand why. I liked Tung Chee-hwa from the start.

    From 1997-2005, Hong Kong was treated independently in all foreign aid and bailout negotiations (including through the 1997-2002 global financial crisis). And in all foreign trade negotiations.

    I thought Tung Chee-hwa fought hard for Hong Kong’s interesting in his negotiations with China. I don’t thing Hong Kong residents understood how lucky they were.

    John Massey, why doesn’t private charity help old Cantonese ladies? Why aren’t their nieces, nephews and other relatives taking care of them? Extended family taking care of retirees is part of Asian Culture. Asians should be very proud of this culture and fight to keep it.

    I think one possible solution is a 50% taxpayer funded / 50% private charity funded retirement option for old Hong Kong retirees in Nepal, Laos, Myanmar etc. Hong Kong can subcontract out assisted living facilities in poor parts of the world.

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