First coined by two World Bank experts in 2007, the middle-income trap phenomenon—the existence of which is disputed by some economists—describes how growth in developing countries tends to stagnate when gross national income (GNI) per capita rises above a certain level, as higher wages push up production costs. Countries can become “stuck in the middle” as they struggle to compete with low-income newcomers where labor costs are still low, and advanced high-income economies with strong innovation. Since 1960, only 15 countries have escaped the“middle-income trap.” Can China beat the odds?
The speed at which China has emerged as a major player in Southeast Asia is stunning. In 2000, total trade in goods between China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was only $40 billion. By 2014, this had leaped to $480 billion, and is forecast to reach $1 trillion by 2020. Southeast Asia has become a strategic market for companies across the whole Chinese economy. Manufacturers are looking to offshore production in order to reduce labor costs, while tech companies are eyeing the region’s 633 million-strong consumer market as a new source of growth.
People love video games. They feel relaxed and entertained in the virtual world. However, there is a trend towards games that are practical and serious—games that are used to teach and train for certain skills. Soldiers, surgeons, securities traders and workers in many other professions train with specialized games. The Brookings Institution estimates that the US military alone spends more than $6 billion a year on video games. “Serious games allow a safe way of rehearsing actions and learning about their consequences as well as transferring previously learned knowledge in as efficient and effective a way as possible,” says computing expert Dr. Andreas Oikonomou.
China has been involved in Africa for decades, with total investments reaching $3.5 trillion by the end of 2015, nearly seven times the 2007 amount. Over 10,000 Chinese firms are operating there, handling 12% of Africa’s industrial production. Now, in addition to the traditional large construction projects, Chinese firms are also getting involved in retail markets like smartphone and home appliances. As China’s momentum in Africa has picked up, so too has the need to expand beyond economic involvement. A key event happened in July 2017, when China dispatched military personnel to set up its first overseas base in Djibouti, the small but strategically-placed country on the Gulf of Aden.
Many people in India still have the impression that Chinese products are cheap and of low quality. Yet India’s smartphone market is 51% Chinese, which may surprise many Indians. And it’s not just smartphones: More Chinese companies, from new tech firms to traditional manufacturers, are heading to China’s southern neighbor, along with many of the largest multinational enterprises. Companies like Ebay, Apple and Uber, have all targeted India as their next growth market. For Chinese companies, though, India market entry might not be easy. They have to face both their old competitors as well as rising local Indian firms.
China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is the fusion of two development schemes—the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Together they comprise infrastructure between 65 countries containing 63% of the world population, more than 35% of global merchandise trade, and 30% of global GDP. To date about $ 150 billion in investment has been committed.
Although the quality of ‘made in China’ products has not been fully recognized in foreign markets, ‘made in China’ apps have made their way in the Google and Apple app stores. Chinese tech firms, under intense domestic market competition, are seeking new ways out of China. India, Brazil and Russia—emerging economies with young smartphones users—have become their new battleground. More mature firms have also begun to try to compete in developed markets in the US and Europe, where there is better infrastructure and users are willing to pay for premium services. But in these developed markets, Chinese tech firms face more challenges.
In the early 20th century, the world managed to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, yet the income inequality problem continued to grow and even became the source of tension between regions. In this interview, Tony Atkinson, a professor at the London School of Economics, talks about facing up to one of the defining problems of our time in his book Inequality: What Can Be Done? Atkinson studied poverty and inequality over four decades. He believes that inequality can only be solved through a concerted global effort and offers his views on how China, as a relatively opaque country, can work with global forces to alleviate poverty.
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is poised to reshape development in Asia, and international finance.
Anil Gupta, an expert on globalization and strategy, on the domino effect unleashed by several global megatrends—from the turmoil in the energy markets and the crisis in Greece, to the challenges being faced by the Chinese economy.