Shanghai's economy, at $414 billion, is larger today than China's entire national economy was in 1990. pic.twitter.com/UavtQD0yVD
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) April 14, 2017
It’s easy to under-estimate what has happened.
Fascinating to learn about the reappearance of China's missing girls, who show up in the census years — sometimes decades — after birth pic.twitter.com/VepPRuaIf2
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) April 13, 2017
This is huge. (But it’s also one of those “the correction gets a fraction of the attention the error got” things.)
In 2016 the world saw the completion of 128 skyscrapers, up from 114 in 2015, according to the US-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (it defines a skyscraper as being higher than 200 m, or 656 ft). Of those, 84 came from China, a new record for the nation. China has topped the council’s completions list every year for nearly a decade (pdf, p. 2). In 2015 it notched 68 such buildings, also a record in China at the time. […] Shenzhen, a city in southern China known for electronics manufacturing, stood out last year, completing 11 such skyscrapers. That’s more than the US and Australia combined.
WeChat’s ability to create a bustling payments economy echoes the general success of its parent company. In September, Tencent became China’s largest company by value, surpassing state-owned China Mobile, when it reported its third-quarter revenue: $6 billion, up 52% year over year. How much of that can be attributed to Wallet and WePay was not specified: WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, makes money largely from online gaming, advertising, and selling sticker packs. But Tencent — which began with the instant messaging app QQ and is now pursuing artificial intelligence and electric cars alongside investments in a range of companies, including China’s dominant ride-sharing operation, Didi Chuxing — did cite WePay as a major reason for its “other” businesses’ growth, which increased $726 million in the third quarter, or 348% over the same period last year. According to estimates by HSBC, based on current tech company valuations, WeChat could already be worth more than $80 billion, about half of Tencent’s market capitalization.
Further down, there’s an excellent quote from Connie Chan (of Andreessen Horowitz) on WeChat’s electronic red envelopes: “This was money as a message.”
Why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Europe, rather than China? Joel Mokyr thinks fragmentation was the key:
In Europe, no one ever succeeds in unifying it, and you have continuous competition. The French are worried about the English, the English are worried about the Spanish, the Spanish are worried about the Turks. That keeps everybody on their toes, which is something economists immediately recognize as the competitive model. To have progress, you want a system that is competitive, not one that is dominated by a single power. […] I think that is the major difference. It isn’t just that China doesn’t have an Industrial Revolution, it doesn’t have a Galileo or a Newton or a Descartes, people who announced that everything people did before them was wrong. That’s hard to do in any society, but it was easier to do in Europe than China. The reason precisely is because Europe was fragmented, and so when somebody says something very novel and radical, if the government decides they are a heretic and threatens to prosecute them, they pack their suitcase and go across the border.
Unity is a decelerator.