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Megacity 2020: The Pearl River Delta’s Astonishing Growth
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In the late 1970s, the fertile river delta to the north of Hong Kong’s territory was primarily agricultural land. Shenzhen was an unassuming town of 30,000 people – with only one functioning taxi – and China was still very much a communist, rural country.
As the visualization above, by Time Out Hong Kong, demonstrates, the sleepy Pearl River Delta was on the cusp of an unprecedented growth spurt that would see cities expand and merge to become the largest contiguous urban region in the world.
A trickle becomes a flood
In 1979, the Chinese government – led by Deng Xiaoping – created four Special Economic Zones (SEZ) with the intention of attracting foreign direct investment and encouraging private enterprise.
The designation of Shenzhen and Zhuhai as SEZs was a strategic move to act as an “overflow” for businesses in Hong Kong, and the impact on the Pearl River Delta was profound and immediate.
A number of factors also helped contribute to the meteoric rise of the region: proximity to Hong Kong’s financial sector, a world-class seaport, a huge and inexpensive labor pool, cheap and abundant land, and few regulatory impediments to rapidly growing companies.
In the two decades after Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms, the GDP of the region grow by more than 10x and urbanization – bolstered by large-scale infrastructure projects – began in earnest.
To put the scale of this population clustering into perspective, here are the populations of cities within the Pearl River Delta in 2020 compared with modern-day metropolitan areas in North America and Europe:
Today, this compact region has a GDP equivalent to that of South Korea.
Megalopolis at the Gates
The explosive growth the Pearl River Delta has upended the regional balance of power.
At the close of the 20th century, Hong Kong was the undisputed economic powerhouse of the region. In fact, just prior to the handover from the United Kingdom to China, the city’s economic output was equal to a quarter of China’s entire GDP.
Today, the situation is markedly different. Hong Kong is no longer a separate entity, and its GDP represents a mere 3% of China’s.
This shift in the regional dynamic is causing trepidation in Hong Kong, where over 90% of the millennial population identifies as “Hong Konger” as opposed to “Chinese”. Although the government has agreed in spirit to maintain the city’s autonomy until 2047, recent actions suggest an eagerness to integrate the entire region into a seamless megacity.
The blurring of the lines appears to be well underway, as more than half a million people from the city now reside in Mainland China, up from approximately 150,000 a decade ago.
One physical manifestation of Mainland China’s push for an integrated region is the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge. This colossal infrastructure project is a 31 mile (50 km) connection that includes bridges, tunnels, and three man-made islands.
In China, where each project is more ambitious than the next, it’s only fitting that the world’s largest urban area will be connected by the world’s largest sea crossing.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: The U.S. vs Everyone Else
Where are the top 100 companies of the world located? We highlight the U.S. share of the top companies by market capitalization .
The Top 100 Companies of the World: U.S. vs Everyone
When it comes to breaking down the top 100 companies of the world, the United States still commands the largest slice of the pie.
Throughout the 20th century and before globalization reached its current peaks, American companies made the country an economic powerhouse and the source of a majority of global market value.
But even as countries like China have made headway with multi-billion dollar companies of their own, and the market’s most important sectors have shifted, the U.S. has managed to stay on top.
How do the top 100 companies of the world stack up? This visualization pulls from PwC’s annual ranking of the world’s largest companies, using market capitalization data from May 2021.
Where are the World’s Largest Companies Located?
The world’s top 100 companies account for a massive $31.7 trillion in market cap, but that wealth is not distributed evenly.
Between companies, there’s a wide range of market caps. For example, the difference between the world’s largest company (Apple) and the 100th largest (Anheuser-Busch) is $1.9 trillion.
And between countries, that divide becomes even more stark. Of the 16 countries with companies making the top 100 ranking, the U.S. accounts for 65% of the total market cap value.
|Location||# of Companies||Market Capitalization (May 2021)|
|🇺🇸 United States||59||$20.55T|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||1||$1.92T|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||1||$0.43T|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3||$0.43T|
Compared to the U.S., other once-prominent markets like Japan, France, and the UK have seen their share of the world’s top 100 companies falter over the years. In fact, all of Europe accounts for just $3.46 trillion or 11% of the total market cap value of the list.
A major reason for the U.S. dominance in market values is a shift in important industries and contributors. Of the world’s top 100 companies, 52% were based in either technology or consumer discretionary, and the current largest players like Apple, Alphabet, Tesla, and Walmart are all American-based.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: Competition From China
The biggest and most impressive competitor to the U.S. is China.
With 14 companies of its own in the world’s top 100, China accounted for $4.19 trillion or 13% of the top 100’s total market cap value. That includes two of the top 10 firms by market cap, Tencent and Alibaba.
|Company||Country||Sector||Market Cap (May 2021)|
|#2||Saudi Aramco||Saudi Arabia||Energy||$1,920B|
|#4||Amazon||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$1,558B|
|#8||Tesla||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$641B|
|#10||Berkshire Hathway||United States||Financials||$588B|
|#13||JPMorgan Chase||United States||Financials||$465B|
|#14||Johnson & Johnson||United States||Health Care||$433B|
|#15||Samsung Electronics||South Korea||Technology||$431B|
|#16||Kweichow Moutai||China||Consumer Staples||$385B|
|#17||Walmart||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$383B|
|#19||UnitedHealth Group||United States||Health Care||$352B|
|#20||LVMH Moët Hennessy||France||Consumer Discretionary||$337B|
|#21||Walt Disney Co||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$335B|
|#22||Bank of America||United States||Financials||$334B|
|#23||Procter & Gamble||United States||Consumer Staples||$333B|
|#25||Home Depot||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$329B|
|#26||Nestle SA||Switzerland||Consumer Staples||$322B|
|#28||Paypal Holdings||United States||Industrials||$284B|
|#29||Roche Holdings||Switzerland||Health Care||$283B|
|#31||ASML Holding NV||Netherlands||Technology||$255B|
|#32||Toyota Motor||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$254B|
|#34||Verizon Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$241B|
|#35||Exxon Mobil||United States||Energy||$236B|
|#36||Netflix||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$231B|
|#38||Coca-Cola Co||United States||Consumer Staples||$227B|
|#41||Cisco Systems||United States||Telecommunication||$218B|
|#44||China Construction Bank||China||Financials||$213B|
|#45||Abbott Labs||United States||Health Care||$212B|
|#46||Novartis AG||Switzerland||Health Care||$212B|
|#47||Nike||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$209B|
|#49||Pfizer||United States||Health Care||$202B|
|#50||Chevron||United States||Oil & Gas||$202B|
|#51||China Merchants Bank||China||Financials||$196B|
|#52||PepsiCo||United States||Consumer Staples||$195B|
|#54||Merck & Co||United States||Health Care||$195B|
|#55||AbbVie||United States||Health Care||$191B|
|#59||Thermo Fisher Scientific||United States||Health Care||$180B|
|#60||Eli Lilly & Co||United States||Health Care||$179B|
|#61||Agricultural Bank of China||China||Financials||$178B|
|#64||Texas Instruments||United States||Technology||$174B|
|#65||McDonalds||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$167B|
|#66||Volkswagen AG||Germany||Consumer Discretionary||$165B|
|#67||BHP Group||Australia||Basic Materials||$163B|
|#68||Wells Fargo & Co||United States||Financials||$162B|
|#69||Tata Consultancy Services||India||Technology||$161B|
|#70||Danaher||United States||Health Care||$160B|
|#71||Novo Nordisk||Denmark||Health Care||$160B|
|#73||Wuliangye Yibin||China||Consumer Staples||$159B|
|#74||Costco Wholesale||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$156B|
|#75||T-Mobile US||United States||Telecommunication||$156B|
|#81||Royal Dutch Shell||Netherlands||Oil & Gas||$148B|
|#82||NextEra Energy||United States||Utilities||$148B|
|#83||United Parcel Service||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#84||Union PAC||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#85||Unilever||United Kingdom||Consumer Staples||$147B|
|#87||Linde||United Kingdom||Basic Materials||$146B|
|#88||Amgen||United States||Health Care||$144B|
|#89||Bristol Myers Squibb||United States||Health Care||$141B|
|#91||Bank of China||China||Financials||$139B|
|#92||Philip Morris||United States||Consumer Staples||$138B|
|#93||Lowe's Companies||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$136B|
|#94||Charter Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$135B|
|#96||Sony Group||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$132B|
|#97||Astrazeneca||United Kingdom||Health Care||$131B|
|#98||Royal Bank of Canada||Canada||Financials||$131B|
|#99||Starbucks||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$129B|
Impressively, China’s rise in market value isn’t limited to well-known tech and consumer companies. The country’s second biggest contributing industry to the top 100 firms was finance, once also the most valuable sector in the U.S. (currently 4th behind tech, consumer discretionary, and health care).
Other notable countries on the list include Saudi Arabia and its state-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco, which is the third largest company in the world. Despite only having one company in the top 100, Saudi Arabia had the third-largest share of the top 100’s total market cap value.
As Europe continues to lose ground year-over-year and the rest of Asia struggles to keep up, the top 100 companies might become increasingly concentrated in just the U.S. and China. The question is, will the imbalance of global market value start to even out, or become even bigger?
Mapped: The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State
At the national level, Canada and China are top U.S. trading partners. While this generally extends to the state level, there are some surprises too.
The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State
The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.
However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.
Who are the States Importing From?
The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.
The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.
Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.
|State||Top Country||Total State Import (Millions USD)||Share of Total State Imports|
|Alaska||🇰🇷 South Korea||$836||35.0%|
|District of Columbia||🇨🇦 Canada||$74||13.7%|
|New Hampshire||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,394||20.1%|
|New Jersey||🇨🇳 China||$14,302||12.4%|
|New Mexico||🇨🇳 China||$1,493||32.6%|
|New York||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$33,126||21.5%|
|North Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$9,208||15.1%|
|North Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,781||62.3%|
|Puerto Rico||🇮🇪 Ireland||$9,062||42.7%|
|Rhode Island||🇩🇪 Germany||$1,525||17.3%|
|South Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$6,220||15.5%|
|South Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$428||33.9%|
|Virgin Islands||🇵🇹 Portugal||$174||27.7%|
|West Virginia||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,025||35.2%|
However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.
While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.
China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.
Who are the States Exporting to?
After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.
One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.
The only states that export their largest shares to China are:
- Oregon – 38.1%
- Alaska – 25.5%
- Washington – 22.1%
- Alabama – 18.1%
- Louisiana – 18.1%
The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.
|State||Top Country||Total State Export (Millions USD)||Share of total State Exports|
|New Hampshire||🇩🇪 Germany||$751||13.8%|
|New Jersey||🇨🇦 Canada||$7,229||19.0%|
|New Mexico||🇲🇽 Mexico||$2,197||59.5%|
|New York||🇨🇦 Canada||$13,773||22.3%|
|North Carolina||🇨🇦 Canada||$5,881||20.7%|
|North Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$4,388||84.6%|
|Puerto Rico||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$2,889||17.2%|
|Rhode Island||🇨🇦 Canada||$410||17.1%|
|South Carolina||🇩🇪 Germany||$4,082||13.5%|
|South Dakota||🇨🇦 Canada||$524||38.0%|
|Utah||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$8,906||50.3%|
|Virgin Islands||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$90||15.2%|
|West Virginia||🇨🇦 Canada||$1,283||28.1%|
Trade Going Forward
The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.
These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.
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