Several months ago The Economist released a fascinating graphic on China, titled “Comparing Chinese Provinces With Countries.” As the title implies, this graphic compares each of China’s provinces with different countries. The comparisons are GDP, GDP per person, population, and exports. There are a number of interesting things that the graphic shows.
Unsurprisingly, China does “best” in the population graph. While everybody knows that China’s population is the largest in the world, the sheer size of China’s population can still sometimes come as a shock. The province Anhui by itself has the same population as that of Great Britain, for instance. And there are seven provinces with higher populations than Anhui; the most populated province, Guangdong, has 58% more population than Anhui. On the low side of things comes Tibet, which covers a lot of space but has a mere 3.0 million residents (smaller than some American cities). It’s pretty astonishing to see how small Tibet’s actual population is, given the huge amount of news coverage devoted to it.
The exports graph is also interesting. Most provinces have absolutely tiny exports, belying China’s reputation as an exporting power. Beijing, for instance, exports only 29.2 billion in goods – about the same as Oman. Five coastal provinces account for 77% of China’s total exports; of those five, Guangdong alone is 30% of China’s total exports.
Humorously, the highest rated comment (by far) on the article goes “I cannot find Taiwan.”As a newspaper published by the United Kingdom, The Economist does not include Taiwan as a Chinese province. A Chinese version of the same graphic, of course, would include Taiwan.
Finally, there is one area where China does quite badly: per capita income. The average income each person makes for most provinces reads like a who’s list of Third World, developing countries – Angola, El Salvador, Namibia. This is after thirty years of enormous economic growth, which really makes one think about how poor China was back in the days of Mao Zedong.
The poorest province of China is Guizhou, in which GDP per person is only $3,335. GDP per person in Guizhou is lower than that of the African countries Congo-Brazzaville and Swaziland. But guess which country Guizhou’s GDP is closest to:
GDP per capita in the poorest province of China – a province poorer than several sub-Saharan African countries – is the same as GDP per capita in India. It makes one realize that India, for all its recent economic success, is still really really poor.