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Home / / Economic power shifting to Asia from the West?

Economic power shifting to Asia from the West?

Comments / 3651 Views / Friday, 6 January 2012 00:06

Today, as much as China is the centre of global manufacturing, India has become the international hub for global service industries. India’s IT and outsourcing exports amount to over US$ 50 billion.

The economic resurgence of China and India has also made way for the emergence of Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam as manufacturing bases. This shift of world economic power back to Asia is highlighted in the ADB Key Indicators (for Asia and the Pacific) for 2010.

Today, the Asia Pacific accounts for 38% of the world economy. Europe comes second and North America third. Within Asia over 67% of the GDP comes from three countries – China, India and Japan. It is predicted that Asia will be the main driver of global growth over the next two decades with a newly-emerging Asian middle class of nearly 1.5 billion.

Since 1980, 400 million Chinese people have transcended poverty lines. By 2030 the Chinese middle class is expected to exceed 600 million. In numbers – this will be the largest middle class in the world; and the world’s third largest consumer market. India will be the fifth largest in the world with 520 million consumers. It is this demographic transformation of 1.5 billion Asian consumers, which will fuel global economic growth.

Inclusive growth

However, China and India to fuel global economic growth need to encourage inclusive growth and oppose all forms of trade protectionism. They need to improve the global monetary system and promote new modes of development.

One of the most significant changes today is the collective rise of emerging countries. The emerging countries have become an important force in global affairs. They are no longer in the backseat of global economic governance.

The emerging economies are now institutional players, rule makers and protectors of interests. Many global issues cannot be solved without the participation and support of emerging economies. Currently,

China is the world’s second largest economy. Many predict that China’s GDP will soon surpass the US. An IMF report concluded, that calculated on PPP basis, China’s GDP will overtake that of the United States in 2016.

Some scholars predict that global power is ‘shifting’ from the West to the East. However, many analysts believe that there is no need for developed countries to lose sleep over this. Developed countries have for centuries accumulated incredible wealth and social and economic infrastructure, which still give them an advantage in capacity and influence over the East.

On the other hand, while the developing countries’ rapid economic growth has resulted in a more balanced distribution of global economic power, they don’t have much of a say still in global political and economic affairs.

Many emerging/developing countries are still far behind the developed countries in overall capacity, international outreach, institutional building and economic and social growth. Global issues are fundamentally about development. World peace and security cannot be built in the absence of stronger developing countries, smaller South-North gap, fewer living in abject poor and a better world order.

China’s challenges

China is today the largest developing/emerging country; it has had an extraordinary economic rise built foremost on the backs of low priced workers. China is seeing fast urbanisation and going through a rapid modernisation process. However, China’s growth is totally unbalanced. On per capita income they are 90+ in the world.

Based on United Nations standards, there are over 150 million Chinese people living in poverty. To become a true global player, China faces many challenges: In 2010, China’s economy grew by 10.3 percent to almost six trillion US dollars.

Yet, the foundation for development is weak. China has a huge population and frequent natural disasters. There is an increasing gap between the Eastern China and Western China, urban, rural regions and the rich and poor.

China also has an ageing population they need to take care of. China therefore would need to invest big to improve health care, education and housing. In addition the real wages in China have increases over 12% per year from 2000-2009 and this could result in some of the manufacturing jobs shifting to India, Cambodia and Vietnam.

China’s emergence

One of the most popular debates is the possibility that the United States will be joined or even surpassed as a superpower by China. What makes a superpower, and what would it take for China to match the United States? A genuine superpower does not merely have military and political influence, but also must be at the top of the economic, scientific, and cultural pyramids.

The most recent genuine superpower before the United States was the British Empire. Many Europeans like to point out that the EU has a larger economy than the US, but the EU is a collection of 27 countries that does not share a common leader, a common military, or a uniform foreign policy.

No doubt the only realistic candidate for joining the US in superpower status by 2030 is China. Unlike the US, China has a population of over four times the size of the United States, has the fastest growing economy of any large country, has the buying power and is also mastering sophisticated technologies. But to match the US economy by 2030, China would need an economy that matches the US economy in size.

If the US, with an economy of $14.7 trillion in nominal terms, grows only by 3% a year for the next 20 years, it will be $ 27 trillion in 2030. This is a modest assumption for the US.

China, with an economy of $5.88 trillion nominal terms (not in Purchasing Power Parity terms) grows at 8% a year for the next 20 years straight will be around $ 27 trillion in 2030. China will have to sustain these growth levels for a long period of time (no country, let alone a large one, has grown at more than 8% over such a long period).

In other words, the progress that the US economy would make from 1945 to 2030 (85 years) would have to be achieved by China in just the 20 years from 2010 to 2030. Even then, this is just the total GDP, not per capita GDP, which would still be far to catch up because of China’s huge population, US currently $47,000 and China $4200.

Also, the weak dollar also leads some currency experts to believe/ that the US will lose economic dominance in the next few years. The US dollar comprises a dominant 60%-65% of global currency reserves, even greater share than it had 10 years ago, while the second highest share is that of the Euro (itself the combined currency of 21 separate countries) at just 25%.

So is there no currency that has any chance of overtaking the US, particularly a currency that is associated with a single sovereign nation? The Chinese Yuan represents fewer than 3% of world reserves, and China itself stockpiles US dollars and Euros. Clearly, US dominance in the global currency market is enormous, and very unlikely to lose that edge in the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, unlike the US brands Chinese brands have always been labelled as cheap and obscure quality, and suffer from weaker popularity compared with brands. But the Chinese market is consolidating quickly and has already nurtured some well-known brands in recent years. However, they need combine their image with US factors, to prove their brand competitiveness to domestic consumers and set up high-end brand images.

The US to retain its dominance will however have to manage the debt ceiling (foreign debt $ 13.5 trillion and domestic) and get their private sector that collectively owns over $ 2 trillion to stand up and lead the recovery without depending on fiscal stimulus from Obama.

(The writer is CEO, HR Cornucopia.)

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