China’s Economy: The Sum of the Parts
Geographically vast countries such as the United States or Canada have incredible diversity within their borders. Every part of the country appears unique, as the distribution of population, culture, geographical features, natural resources, and regional industries vary from place to place.
Think of the differences within the U.S. alone: Silicon Valley is known for its technology and dry weather, while New York City is diverse and busy financial hub. Detroit and the other cities situated in the Great Lake States are all known for manufacturing. Meanwhile, Alaska is a center for natural resources, providing the rest of the country with much of its energy, fishing, and metal resources.
China is not much different in this regard, and today’s infographic shows the growth of individual provinces, municipalities, and other administrative areas within the country over the last 20 years.
Specific Growth Stories in China
There are several growth stories that stand out.
While many contain similar themes, each is very unique in its own right and worth studying further. Here are just some of the rapidly growing places in China that caught our eye:
Inner Mongolia, the region of China that borders the country of Mongolia on both the south and east, is extremely rich in natural resources. Making up 12% of the country’s land mass, the region holds 25% of the world’s coal reserves and also produces rare earths, natural gas, and other commodities. Inner Mongolia has the highest installed wind power capacity in China, and the region is also the country’s largest livestock producer.
Inner Mongolia’s economy averaged just under 20% growth per year in the years from 2005-2010.
Tianjin is the primary industrial, commercial and economic center of North China with 15.2 million people. It’s a hub for high-tech manufacturing and logistics, producing many of the cell phone parts used throughout the world. Manufacturing makes up 47.4% of the municipality’s industrial sector, and Tianjin is one of China’s largest port cities.
Tianjin’s economy continued to accelerate from 2000 (10.8% growth) all the way to 2012 (16.4% growth) before starting to decline. The city is still growing faster than the rest of China, registering 9.3% growth in 2015.
Tibet, known mainly as a center of Buddhism and the home of the currently exiled Dalai Lama, is a rapidly changing place. Despite a rich pastoral and nomadic tradition, Tibet is becoming more urban and diversified in terms of industry.
Tibet’s GDP, which was only 327 million yuan in 1965, has soared to 92.08 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) in 2014. This is a 281-fold increase.
In 2014, heavy industry made up 74% of Chongqing’s gross industrial output. The sprawling megacity and surrounding area has 32 million people, and sits at the end of the mighty Yangtze River. Chongqing produces much of the country’s automobiles, military equipment, steel, and aluminum.
Despite the national economy slowing to a 25-year low of 6.9% growth in 2015, Chongqing racked up 11% growth in the year.
Original graphic by: SCMP
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 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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