With the rapid growth of the emerging markets, the global economy is experiencing a seismic shift. By 2050, the collective size of the economies we currently deem 'emerging' will have increased five-fold and will be larger than the developed world. And 19 of the 30 largest economies will be from the emerging world. At the same time, there will be a marked decline in the economic might – and potentially the political clout – of many small population, ageing, rich economies in Europe.
It’s worth remembering that during the 1970s Japan was criticised using many of the arguments that now face China. The Japanese catch-up effort was bolstered significantly by government Large corporate groups (keiretsu) and banks had close ties, and the Ministry of Trade and industry provided administered guidance to firms and banks which influenced what were deemed ‘key industries’. Indeed, the criticisms were such a hindrance to Japan’s global economic reputation that it made a significant donation to the World Bank for it to complete the ‘Miracle Book’ to examine the issue.
There are real limits to the continued expansion of the global economy’s ‘ecological footprint’ – and if these are not confronted then economic output and human well-being will become increasingly constrained. But growth can also be delivered by investing in the markets, technologies, knowledge and business models that improve resource productivity and sustain natural assets.