Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 09:03 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 09:03 | SYDNEY

How big is America? Two illustrations


Sam Roggeveen


17 January 2011 13:19

Following up my recent post about the likelihood that China's economy will surpass that of the US in around the next 10 years, below are two different ways to look at America's enduring size and strength, and the job China has before it in modernising its economy.

Firstly, here's The Economist's graphical representation of the US economy as it compares to other countries; in the map, the economies of individual US states are compared to that of foreign countries. Note that Australia is represented as New York; according to Catallaxy, where I found this graphic, when The Economist previously did this exercise a couple of years ago, we were equivalent to Florida. 

Second, strategist Thomas Barnett suggests a thought experiment to get your head around the differences between the American and Chinese economies. Imagine, firstly, that the entire population of the western hemisphere resided in the US — central America, South America, Canada, the lot. Here's James Fallows summarising the rest of Barnett's idea:

If we did that, we'd be up to about a billion people -- and then if we also took every single person from Nigeria, and for good measure everyone in hyper-crowded Japan too, we'd finally be up to China's 1.3 billion size. At that point, like China, we'd have tremendous scale in everything. Rich people. Big businesses. A huge work force. Countless numbers of multi-million population cities. And we would also have a tremendous amount of poverty, plus pressure on resources of every kind, from water to food to living space. Just as China does now. Scale gives China some strengths. But it also creates tremendous challenges, as Americans would recognize if we thought about this prospect for even a minute. Seriously, reflect on this, and consider that it is China's reality now.