Of why so many otherwise rational and grounded economists and businesspeople are so excited about the opportunities within emerging economies, viewing this graph should be helpful. From Michael Cembalest, the Global Head of Investment Strategy at JP Morgan, the below graph illustrates the share of global GDP each country has represented since Year 1. A couple of points to draw out of this.
First, as Derek Thompson of The Atlantic points out, the relationship between population and GDP needs to be understood: the Industrial Revolution changed how these two were related to one another. Prior to this, economic output was directly tied to population; after, economic output could outpace population growth. One question this brings to mind is what happens when the most populous countries in the world catch up to the level of industrial modernization more developed countries possess. The downside risks are those environmentalists and analysts focused on raw-material constraints are most concerned with; geopolitical issues related to similar levels of industrialization but widely divergent populations could easily set in motion the sort of “fear of inevitable superiority” that led Germany to attack France and Russia in World War I, except this time predicated on extreme economic insecurities felt by Western Europe and the United States towards a country like China.
The upside potential to this graph is the one every businessperson needs to understand: developed economies are not going to be in the global economy’s driving seat much longer. The share of world GDP that countries like China and India will likely ultimately come to account for are likely to, absent global war or encountering a new economic paradigm like a Chinese or Indian version of the Mexican middle income trap, return to historical norms. This means that it is more important than ever to have a strategy in play for accessing these markets. The historical narrative is clear and compelling, the question is how best to access these markets as they make their transition from emerging to semi-developed economies.