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Animation: The World’s 10 Largest Economies by GDP (1960-Today)



Animation: The World’s 10 Largest Economies by GDP (1960-Today)

Just weeks ago, we showed you a colorful visualization that breaks down the $80 trillion global economy.

While such a view provides useful context on the relative size of national economies, it’s also a static snapshot that doesn’t show any movement over time. In other words, we can see the size of any given economy today, but not how it got there.

Today’s animation comes to us from WawamuStats and it charts how GDP has changed over the last 57 years for the world’s 10 largest economies.

It provides us with a lens through time, that helps show the rapid ascent of certain countries and the stagnation of others – and while there are many noteworthy changes that occur in the animation, the two most noticeable ones have been described as “economic miracles”.

Japan’s Economic Miracle

You may have heard of the “Japanese economic miracle”, a term that is used to describe the record-setting GDP growth in Japan between the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War.

Well, the above animation shows this event better than pretty much anything else.

In 1960, Japan had an economy that was only 10% of the size of the United States. But in just a decade, Japan would see sustained real GDP growth – often in the double digits each year – that allowed the country to rocket past both the United Kingdom and France to become the world’s second-largest economy.

It would hold this title consecutively between 1972 and 2010, until it was supplanted by another Asian economic miracle.

Economic Miracle, Part Deux

The other rapid ascent in this animation that can be obviously seen is that of China.

Despite falling off the top 10 list completely by 1980, new economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s helped pave the way to the massive economy in China we know today, including the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.

By 1993, China was once again one of the world’s largest economies, just squeezing onto the above list.

By 2010 – just 17 years later – the country had surpassed titans like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and even Japan to secure the second spot on the list, which it continues to hold today in nominal terms.

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Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. Dollar Since the 19th Century

This animated graphic shows the U.S. dollar, the world’s primary reserve currency, as a share of foreign reserves since 1900.



Visualizing the Rise and Fall) of the U.S. Dollar

Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. Dollar Since the 19th Century

As the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. dollar made up 58.4% of foreign reserves held by central banks in 2022, falling near 25-year lows.

Today, emerging countries are slowly decoupling from the greenback, with foreign reserves shifting to currencies like the Chinese yuan.

At the same time, the steep appreciation of the U.S. dollar is leading countries to sell their U.S. foreign reserves to help prop up their currencies, in turn buying currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars to help generate higher yields.

The above animated graphic from James Eagle shows the rapid ascent of the U.S. dollar over the last century, and its gradual decline in recent years.

Dollar Dominance: A Brief History

In 1944, the U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency under the Bretton Woods Agreement. Over the first half of the century, the U.S. ran budget surpluses while increasing trade and economic ties with war-torn countries, expanding its influence as the world’s store of value.

Later through the 1960s, the U.S. dollar share of global foreign reserves rapidly increased as political allies stockpiled the dollar.

By 2000, dollar dominance hit a peak of 71% of global reserves. With the creation of the European Union a year earlier, countries such as China began increasing the share of euros in reserves. Between 2000 and 2005, the share of the dollar in China’s foreign exchange reserves fell by an estimated 15 percentage points.

The dollar began a long rally after the global financial crisis, which drove central banks to cut their dollar reserves to help bolster their currencies.

Fast-forward to today, and dollar reserves have fallen roughly 13 percentage points from their historical peak.

The State of the World’s Reserve Currency

In 2022, 16% of Russia’s export transactions were in yuan, up from almost nothing before the war. Brazil and Argentina have also begun adopting the Chinese currency for trade or reserve purposes. Still, the U.S. dollar makes up 80% of Brazil’s reserves.

Yet while the U.S. dollar has decreased in share of foreign reserves, it still has an immense influence in the world economy.

The majority of trade is invoiced in the U.S. dollar globally, a trend that has stayed fairly consistent over many decades. Between 1999-2019, 74% of trade in Asia was invoiced in dollars and in the Americas, it made up 96% of all invoicing.

Furthermore, almost 90% of foreign exchange transactions involve the U.S. dollar thanks to its liquidity.

However, countries are increasingly finding alternative options than the dollar. Today, Western businesses have begun settling trade with China in renminbi. Looking further ahead, digital currencies could provide options that don’t include the U.S. dollar.

Even more so, if the U.S. share of global GDP continues to shrink, the shift to a multipolar system could progress over this century.

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