By Rishiraj Das
For the past 200 years, European countries through colonialism have dominated the globe both politically and economically. Even now, when one thinks of prosperity and development, the Western World always comes to mind. However, this was not always the case. In fact previous to colonialism, Asia had been the world’s economic centre (specifically India and China). We can see from the graph below, that for almost the entirety of the past 2000 years, China (Red) and India (Orange) have consistently been the world’s two largest economies.
There is a simple reason for this: population. China and India have both always had the two largest populations. For most of world history, different kinds of people from across the world have similar levels of economic output. Therefore, it is only logical that the two countries with the largest populations would also have the largest economies. So why did this change?
Starting with the Industrial Revolution in Britain, Europe underwent drastic development. Industrialisation brought Europeans a technological advantage meaning that a person in Europe could now produce more than a similar person in the rest of the world. As a result, a population was no longer the determining factor in large economies. The European countries experienced rapid economic growth and with that, power. They developed superior militaries and projected their power across the globe transforming the reigning giants of the old world into poverty stricken nations.
However, beginning with Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in 1978 and Narasimha Rao’s in 1991, the world has witnessed a tectonic shift, the meteoric ascent of the fortunes of the fallen Titans, setting in motion their return to economic prosperity. Since then, both countries have undergone astronomical growth in GDP and this trend is not stopping. At the end of last year, India was the 7th largest economy in nominal terms. The International Monetary Fund believes that in a mere 5 years, India will surpass Germany to become the world’s 4th largest economy. PricewaterCoopers predicted in February that by 2030 China and India will be the 1st and 3rd largest economies in the world and by 2050, India will surpass the US to become 2nd. This means that by 2050, four out of the top 5 largest economies will be Asian, namely China, India, Indonesia and Japan
In conclusion, as the rest of the world develops and industrialises, a return to the historical normality of Asian economic domination will take place the consequences of which are difficult to ascertain and we can only wait and see.