World’s ‘economic center’ races east, thanks to ‘middleweight’ cities

World’s ‘economic center’ races east, thanks to ‘middleweight’ cities

The world's economic center of gravity is rapidly moving east, after thousands of years of westward movement. <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/06/daily-chart-19">Image: The Economist</a>
The world's economic center of gravity is rapidly moving east, after thousands of years of westward movement. Image: The Economist

Rapid urbanization in emerging economies has the world’s economic center of gravity whizzing east faster than ever before, according to this infographic in The Economist last week.

As the consumer class swells in places like China and India, it shifts the global center of economic growth and influence, according to a study released last month by the McKinsey Global Institute.

The 600 cities making the largest contribution to a higher global GDP will generate nearly 65 percent of world economic growth by 2025.

One billion people will enter the global consuming class by 2025. They will have incomes high enough to classify them as significant consumers of goods and services.

And, as The Economist reports on the McKinsey study, this shift is driven by lesser-known but faster-growing urban centers, as they absorb populations moving up and out of poverty.

Calculations show that the centre is rapidly shifting east—at a speed of 140 kilometres a year and thus faster than ever before in human history.

Most of this growth will not occur in much-hyped megacities, such as Mumbai or Shanghai, but in what the authors call ‘middleweight cities.’ Few in the rich world would be able to identify these on a map. Ever heard of Foshan or Surat, for instance?

The gravitational center has been moving east since 1960. But by 2025 the distance it will have moved in 65 years will be roughly equivalent to its previous westward movement in close to 2,000 years.

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