Text by John Ross
Professor John Ross, author of this article, is anexpert on China’s economic issues. A formermayor of London, he now serves as a visitingprofessor at Antai College of Economics andManagement of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
China is rapidly approaching its once-in-adecadechange in president and government,which seems an appropriate timeto survey the country’s economic performanceover the last decade. As the economic data for2012 is not yet in, the decade will be taken as 2001-2011. Strictly speaking, this period includes a year ofChina’s previous administration;
but this is merely astatistical quibble as ninetenthsof the period wasoverseen by the present government.Some statistics overthat 10-year period are wellknown: China became theworld’s second largest economyand the world’s largest goods exporter. But suchstatistics greatly underestimate the scale of China’seconomic achievement. The last 10 years in China’seconomy may be summed up in two overwhelmingfacts which place all other economic data in context.
In the last decade China experienced the fastestgrowth in GDP per capita of any major economy inhuman history.
Translated into living standards, this means that inthe last 10 years, China has experienced by far the fastestconsumption growth rate of any major economy.
As these are astonishing achievements it is worthgiving the exact data.
China’s annual average GDP per capita growthin the last 10-year period was 9.9 percent. The totalincrease in GDP per capita over the decade was158 percent. Historically,as shown in World Bankdata, and for earlier periodsin Angus Maddison’sstandard work World Population,GDP and GDP PerCapita 1-2006 AD, thismakes China’s the fastestrate of increase ever recordedby a major economy.
This figure is all the more extraordinary whenone considers that it includes the period since 2008,which has seen the most serious international economiccrisis for 80 years.