United States Of America Versus The Rest Of The World
After the Second World War in 1945, every other nation's economy shattered
and only two countries remained 'as the superpowers of the world,' Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and United States of America (USA). The world
was BIPOLAR then. The two 'superpowers' followed completely different economic
and political strategies- socialism (there is no private ownership, the state
owns each thing and in the economy as well the state intervenes) with communism
followed and preached by USSR and capitalism (there is private ownership and the
economy follows laissez faire ideology and the state does not intervenes) with
democracy followed and preached by USA.
The debate, discussion and deliberation of which is the better ideology was also
going on. It was only in 1991 that capitalism and democracy emerged as a better
theory, because USSR disintegrated. The major reasons of the disintegration were
economic weakness, political stubbornness and growth of nationalism.
USSR had a strong economy in 1940s, the country was self-reliant, it produced
everything from a pin to cars but as the time advanced, the country spent more
on the military expenditure (USSR invasion of Afghanistan) and the Central Asian
USSR followed one party system, that is, rule of communist party, but as the
time advanced the party became corrupt and there was lack of transparency. With
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of USSR, a multi party system was
allowed in the country with establishment of President, that is, steps to
establish democracy. But this led to the destabilization of communist authority
and the USSR to disintegrate.
The direct cause of disintegration was a growth of nationalism, in the Baltic
Republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Ukraine, Georgia, Russia and others.
They started to maintain a distance from the 'union' businesses and focused more
on the development of their own geographical boundaries.
Thus, on 25 December 1991, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics disintegrated
into 15 independent states and thus the world was now, with only one superpower-
United States of America, that is, the world was now UNIPOLAR.
In the contemporary times, we see the change in the perception of power in the
world. The traditional notion of power was related to the military size and the
intensity of the military equipments. But now, it focuses on the economy and
development in the country. The country with higher development, Foreign Direct
Investment, trade exchanges and especially the Gross Domestic Product is the one
with more power. But we must also focus on the fact that the west took
approximately a century to develop their economy but the global south had to
reach that level of development and economy in approximately four to five
decades to be known as 'developed.'
But currently we see the rise of rest of the world like France, Germany and
Europe but mainly the 'Global South' or the 'eastern' countries, which were
colonized by the west. Japan, China, India and Brazil were among the one who's
Gross Domestic Product, the economy and the development projects increased
significantly in the world.
Japan in the Second World War was in the Axis group with Germany and Italy. The
Second World War ended with the atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
in Japan by the USA on 6-9th August 1945 and thus the Allies powers (led by
USSR, Great Britain and USA) won the Second World War. The bombing led to
destruction of about 40% of the Japan's industrial plants and infrastructure.
Thus the nation's second period of economic development began. Millions of
former soldiers joined a well disciplined and highly educated work force to
rebuild Japan. Japan was one of the first Asian countries to climb the value
chain in the world and shift from agriculture to manufacturing and service
After the surrender on 15 August 1945, American forces began an intensive
program of legal changes, that is, establish democracy in Japan. Foreign trade
started with many countries like Great Britain, USA, USSR, China etc. USA
military equipment from Japan peaked at 7% of Japan's Gross National Product in
1953. Now, with the industrialization, the demand of reforms extending to right
to vote for women, labor unionization and liberalization of economy started.
The unionization of workers was encouraged by the US occupying forces that
forced companies to compete on basis of technology and innovation in the country
for the protection of rights of the workers. Thus, the early post war period was
devoted to increase the industrial capacity and invest majorly in the electric
power, coal, steel and chemical industries.
Within few years, the country not only recovered its growth level in comparison
to the pre war period but there was also an increase in them. There were changes
in the education system which was important for the formation of skilled and
educated labor leading to success of the country to achieve a technologically
advanced economy. Japan till now has the one of the world's highest literacy
rate and high education standards. The schools encouraged discipline and
effective work force.
In the mid 1960s the economy opened to international competition and developed
the heavy and chemical manufacturers. Textiles, automobiles, electronic, ships
and machine tools industries were maintaining profitability internationally.
Around this time Japanese consumerism grew exponentially, for the Japanese
families- a refrigerator, a washing machine and a television set were considered
as the 'three treasures.'
From 1960s-1980s, Japan's economy was characterized by- high investment rates,
efficient industrial technique, access to leading technologies in research and
development, better relationship between labor and management and high standards
of education leading to a skilled population.
But the economy of Japan was not always a smooth ride. The 1973 oil crisis
shocked the economy which was dependent on imported petroleum leading to a
decline in the industrial production and severe price inflation. With high
investment costs, the energy intensive industries reduced their dependence on
oil and moved towards alternative sources of energy in late 1970s. The workforce
in the service sector grew from 47% in 1970 to 59.2% in 1990. Wholesaling,
retailing, finance, insurance, real estate, transportation and communications
industries productivity increased.
The factors of the fast growth in Japan even after such a great destruction
were- the nation's pre-war period gave benefits as there was productive
agriculture, developed financial and marketing systems, a good infrastructure of
roads and an experienced labor. The quality and level of investment increased in
the country and increased more than 30% in 1970s. The businesses imported latest
technology to develop the industrial base. Japan had many patents, technological
improvement in the industries with development of the nation's infrastructure
and many innovations.
Japan labor force also contributed a lot to the economic growth with high
literacy and reasonable wage demands. There was shift in the labor force from
agriculture to industries leading to increase in productivity and moderate
increase in wage. However, labor union cooperation generally kept salary
increases within the range of gains in productivity. The nation had medium and
small enterprises for the employment of the labor but the actual productivity
was from the large firms. The benign treatment from USA after the Second World
War facilitated the country's reconstruction and growth.
The Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1954-1975) also bought
industrial booms in the country as the demand of the Japanese goods increased
and set the foundation of the country's economic activity.
Japan had the world's third largest gross national product (GNP) behind USA and
USSR in 1970s. There was better living, housing and environmental standards with
better medical care and more welfare. There was a rise of information based
economy with highly sophisticated technology and advanced computers, use of
information became highly beneficial for Japan. Tokyo became the one of the
major financial center in the world and home to world's major banks, financial
firms and insurance companies. Japan implemented stringent tariffs and policies
to encourage people to save their income. Thus, loans and credit became easier
to obtain as more money in the bank.
Deflation started in 1990s and bank reduced the interest rates because of the
fallen asset prices, bad loans by bank and more money spent on gold than keep
savings in bank. Many economic policies were adopted but the country remained in
serious recession. The decade in Japan is also known as 'the lost decade.'
By 2000, the workforce of the country decreased as compared to the 'baby boom'
after the Second World War. The interest rate was near zero in 2006 but this did
not stop the deflation. The economy suffered more losses in 2008-2009 global
financial crises. In 2009, the government increased tobacco and green taxes. In
2011, Japan joined the Trans- Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership which led
to the increase in the economy. In 2012, Prime Minister Abe pursued a reformist
agenda and implemented the fiscal and monetary expansion that could liberalize
the economy with 'three arrows' economic revitalization of monetary easing,
flexible fiscal policy and structural reforms. In 2018, Japan was fourth largest
importer and fourth largest exporter in the world.
With COVID- 19 Japan also suffered the drastic effects of Typhoon Hagibis from 4
to 20th October 2019, the strongest typhoon to strike Japan in decades, leading
to the decrease in the GDP by 7.1%. There were drastic effects on people's lives
and the economy. The COVID-19 led to the establishment of national emergency in
the country and gave to the worst economic crisis since the Second World War.
Japan's economy was second largest after USA from 1968-2010, then it was
surpassed by China. Currently, Japan is fourth largest consumer market in the
world. It is the second largest automobile manufacturing country in the world.
With increase in competitiveness in China and South Korea, Japan focused on high
tech and precision goods like robotics and hybrid vehicles. Japan has third
largest financial asset in the world. Japan is the leader of manufacture of
electrical appliances and electronic, ships, machine tools etc. Japan's
manufacturing is internationally renowned. Trade promotes significantly to the
economy of the nation.
But the Japanese economy faces challenges posed by aging and declining
population leading to a decrease in the workforce and tax revenue. The
population projections show a decline in population till many years forward. The
few natural resources and the protection given to the agricultural sector also
can lead to a decrease in the economy.
After the Second World War, agriculture sector in China was disrupted and food
production was below the pre war period, there was also inflation in the
country. Many factories and mines were also destroyed.
In 1949 China got independence from Britain but China was still suffering the
effects of the war. Socialism was followed in the country there was no private
ownership and the government held the properties. There was only one level of
the government, the centre. The central government was responsible for restoring
the peace, national economic order, price stabilization and currency
stabilization by preparing a five year plans.
For that, firstly the banks were nationalized under the People's Bank of China,
which controlled the inflation, tightened credit and made the budget for the
government expenditure. The success of government in stabilizing prices gave a
new sense of legitimacy to the government. Industries were under state
ownership, conditions of the workers improved as each employee was given medical
benefits, subsidized food and housing, eight hours of work and permanent
employment. In agriculture, the lands from the landlords were given to
prosperous farmers for the success of the sector. By 1953, China had rapidly
recovered its economy in comparison to the pre war period.
The first five year plan from 1953-1957, under the leadership of Mao Zedong,
focused on the heavy and capital intensive technology and agriculture. But the
government control over industries increased mainly over commerce and
handicrafts. In agriculture, government access to the agricultural products
increased, the farmers were allowed to have a small private plot to grow
vegetables, fruits and livestock for their own use. Everyone was given free
medical care, education, housing and permanent jobs. But there was still lack of
flexibility and dissatisfaction with inefficiency of the leader.
But the income gap between rich and poor widened, the Soviet style economy
(socialism) was not appropriate for China. But still the second and third five
year plans were initiated and as expected by the citizens they did not give any
fruitful benefits to the economy of the country.
In 1965, agriculture and light industries became the nation's priorities. By
1975, China's economy was working well according to the conventional economic
measures. But sill there was problems of income gap and agricultural and
industrial sectors not working well. The service sector had not been present in
the economy since long.
At the 11th Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party on 22 December 1978,
they concluded that the centrally planned economy had failed to improve the
efficiency and economy and thus had led to the failure of Chinese economic
system. The food supplies, rationed clothing and adequate housing were barely
available to the Chinese citizens. Thus, the reforms were introduced in China
firstly at a local level and if successful they would be implemented at the
The reforms were firstly in the agricultural sector, to allow private lands and
informal market for farm products in rural areas and then the liberalization of
the trade barriers and privatization of land plots, industries, banks, financial
companies etc. happened. The focus was to attract and absorb foreign technology
and capital from advanced countries like USA.
There were significant results in food supplies, consumer goods and exports.
Transport, communication, coal, iron, steel and electric power were focused and
increased growth rate of light industry were seen.
By 1999, the Chinese economy or the Chinese Dragon was rising greatly, though
the American economy was still the greatest, China was seen as the sheer
competition of USA.
China became a part of World Trade Organization in 2001, which further increased
the exports. As China had cheap labor and proved attractive to the foreign
investment, it became a key in the global supply chains. Many major companies
manufacturing quarters were set up in China like- Apple, Volkswagen, General
Motors etc. Many clothing, plastic, footwear, electric equipments etc. company's
manufacturing quarters were present in the nation.
China had the highest growth rate in the world in 1990-2004. The GDP increased
10% in 2003. It made the world's third largest economy in 2007. But with the
2008-2009 global financial crisis and the natural disasters in 2008- the Chinese
winter storms, 2008 Sichuan Earthquake and 2008 South China floods affected the
local and regional infrastructure and the national growth.
In response to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, China launched the
Economic Stimulus Plan, which provided the opportunity to reboot the
infrastructure of China and raise its exports leading to strong position of the
nation in the world organizations. Chinese e-commerce grew more than European
Union and USA from 2009, the transactions by online methods increased
Since 2017, the focus on technology and service sector has increased in the
nation. In 2020, China signed major free trade agreements with European Union
and fifteen Asia-Pacific countries. China was the only nation which experienced
GDP growth in COVID-19 by 2.3%.
It has several trade agreements with USA, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, European
Union, Hong Kong, Russia etc. It has the world's largest trading bloc in history
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with Asian Pacific nations
like Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia etc. It is known as the
'powerhouse of manufacturing.' Out of 500 largest companies, 145 are
headquartered in China.
China is the world's largest fastest growing consumer market and second largest
importer of goods. It plays prominent role in international trade. It receives
the world's largest investment. It also has the world largest foreign exchange
But still though there have been technological progress and urbanization, there
is a rapid aging population and extreme damages to the environment. This will
lead to a decrease in growth in the future and damages to the natural resources
of the nation. There was also a trade war between USA and China leading to the
shifts in the commodity flows, many manufacturing quarters of many different
companies shifted from China to mostly India.
But it is one of the greatest contributors of Green House Gases (GHG) emissions
causing climate change and global warming. But its per capita emissions are
still lower than developed economies like United States. But still without
China's engagement the environment issues cannot be resolved.
India was rich in the handicraft industries before the colonial rule, but after
the colonization Indian expensive handicraft clothes were replaced by the cheap
machine made clothes of Britain which led to the destruction of the business of
the Indian industries. Britain used to send the resources of the colonial India
to make the industries at home more developed.
When India got independent in 1947, the country was drained of most of the
natural resources, with the partition most of the handloom factories were under
East Pakistan (later known as Bangladesh). India was influenced with the Soviet
Union way of economic development and thus followed socialism, so much so that
the word is also mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. India
followed the five year planning method which signified focus on the central
With the second five year plan, Jawaharlal Nehru, the former Prime Minister of
India, took the responsibility of industrialization, but he focused only on the
heavy and capital intensive industries. The small scale industries were given
protection with reservation of goods for them and there was a focus on import
substitution, central planning, economic interventionism and increase of public
sector. Many industries like steel, mining, insurance, telecommunication etc.
were nationalized in mid-1950s. Indian economy of this period is defined as
Dirigisme, that is, economic development where the state has a positive role.
Jawaharlal Nehru with Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis formulated and oversaw
economic policy of the country in second five year plan (1956-1961). They
expected development of heavy industries by both public and private sector but
with both direct and indirect state intervention. The government had a lot of
restrictions with need of approval in everything.
With the Green Revolution in the agricultural sector which began in 1960s, high
yield variety of seeds, improved irrigation facilities and use of fertilizers
improved the condition of agriculture- crop productivity and crop pattern in the
nation. But the sector had increase of the capitalist farming and widening
From 1947 to 1991, India followed protectionist economic policies with extensive
state intervention and economic regulations with license system, that is, only
with a license from the government any new industry or branch of any industry
could be established.
In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, promised economic
liberalization, V. P Singh was the Finance Minster, but because of many scandals
in his government the true form of economic liberalization never really took
In 1991, when P. V. Narsimha Rao was the Prime Minister and Dr. Manmohan Singh
as the Finance Minister that India's financial condition was so weak. India
experienced major balance of payment crisis because of the collapse of the
Soviet Union, one of India's major trading partner and the increase in the oil
prices because of the Gulf War.
Thus the country had to go to the international organization like International
Monetary Fund and World Bank to asked for $1.8 billion as loan and with the
Structural Adjustment Programs, the organizations agreed to lend the money only
if the nation's barriers would be opened, that is, no reservation for the small
scale industries, license permit raj to be abolished, opening up of the economy,
allowing foreign companies to set up in the country, reduced tariffs and
interest rates and end in public monopolies.
With the 21st century, India progressed towards free market economy with
reduction in the state control of economy. In the 2008 Global Financial Crisis
economy faced a mild slowdown and initiated stimulus measures to boost growth
and greater demand. This led to increase in the life expectancy, literacy rate
and food security. GDP has grown significantly over the years from ninth o fifth
largest economies in 2019 surpassing United Kingdom, France, Italy and Brazil.
But there have been more benefits to the urban residents than the rural
Though, India's economy did decrease because of the 2008-2009 global financial
crisis and 2016 demonetization of Rs. 500 and 1000 bank notes and Good and
The COVID-19 pandemic downgraded the GDP of India, signaling a recession in
India. It reversed economic growth and poverty reduction.
India receives investment in service sector, computer industry and telecom
industry. India has many multilateral agreements and is in many international
organizations like South Korea, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates,
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asian Free Trade
Agreement (SAFTA) etc.
In the first quarter of 2022-2023, Indian economy grew by 13.5%. India is the
fifth largest economy in the world. The nation is sixth largest consumer market
in the world. It is the world's sixth largest importer and ninth largest
exporter. It has been a member of World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995.
India's labor force is second largest in the world. In 2022, India emerged as
one of the fastest growing economies in the world despite the global challenges
of environment, geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures and tightening of
global monetary policy.
But still India must focus on public sector reform, infrastructure, agriculture,
financial inclusion, education and public health. The service sector makes up
more than 50% of the GDP but agriculture employs the largest labor force. Nearly
65% of population lives in rural areas which signify the lack of urbanization
and the attraction in urban areas.
Brazil lies in the South American continent, it is rich with natural resources.
The Brazilian economy was largest in Latin America. The nation holds 60% of the
Amazon rainforest, the largest tropical forest in the world which also leads to
the high shares of renewable in energy matrix. The agricultural sector has been
dynamic and has kept Brazil among the most highly productive countries in the
The agricultural sector and the mining sector are the sectors that support trade
and allowed massive currency gains and external debt payment. From a colony of
Britain, it focused on primary sector growth like cotton, sugar and gold, the
nation created diversifies industrial base in the 20th century.
Brazil is one of the ten largest markets in the world, producing tens of
millions of steel, many television sets, refrigerators, and cement and most
importantly processing of the fuels, lubricants, gases and petrochemicals.
But the company Odebrecht, also known as Novonor, is a Brazilian conglomerate,
consisting of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction,
chemicals and petrochemicals, since 1980s is involved in many corruption cases.
The company has spent billions of dollars in form of bribe to the
parliamentarians to vote in favor of the group. At the local level it is aimed
at 'privatization' particularly in water and sewer management.
In 1990s the nation took important steps towards fiscal sustainability and
liberalized the economy, which boosted the country's competitiveness
fundamentals. This provided better environment for the private sector
The country from 2000-2012 was one of the fastest growing major economies in the
world, with annual rate of over 5%. Its GDP surpassed United Kingdom in 2012,
making it the sixth largest economy in the world.
The World Economic Forum found Brazil at the top of upward evolution of
competitiveness in 2009, overcoming Russia for the first time and close to India
and China among the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) economies.
Brazilian economy decelerated in 2014 and started to recover in 2017 and
officially exited recession. In 2017, the nation's GDP surpassed American GDP.
The country's industrial, scientific and technological developments attracted
the foreign direct investment. Brazil was the seventh largest steel producer and
fifth largest steel net exporter in 2018. In 2019, it was the fourth largest
destination for foreign investment, behind USA, China and Singapore. Petrobas, a
Brazilian oil and gas company is most valuable company in Latin America.
But with the COVID-19, Brazil had one of the highest death tolls in the world
with the rapid vaccine rollout program in mid 2021 and comprehensive support
policy there was normality again.
In 2020, Brazil had seventh largest number of billionaires in the world
according to Forbes. The nation is also involved in many international
agreements and organizations like G20, World Trade Organization, Paris Club,
Cairns Group, BRICS and is advanced to be permanent member of Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development.
In 2022, International Monetary Fund recorded that Brazil has 10th largest GDP
in the world. Household consumption increased and labor market recovered after
COVID-19, unemployment decreased and the public debt decreased. Though the
federal social transfer which contribute in reducing poverty rates decreased in
2022 (24.3%) from 2021 (28.4%).
To improve the potential output the nation need to implement structural reforms
that could boost and support investment and productivity. The key policy
challenge in the years ahead would be protecting the poor and ensure public
finance sustainability. Focus on having a much more greener and resilient growth
model. The high exposure to climate risks and deforestation in the Amazon
rainforest calls for reforms to address the challenges.
The productivity of the nation remained low despite the favorable demographics
because of the cumbersome business environment, discouraging entrepreneurship,
unequal human capital accumulation, low savings, increasing pension obligations
and ineffective state policies.
USA and the American economy are the most developed out of all the nations in
the world. All the other nations are trying to uplift their own economy. While
only few have succeeded to do so fully. France, Germany and Europe have been
able to increase their economies and strengthen after the Second World War. But
the most astonishing developments have been from the remaining continents like
Japan, China, India and Brazil.
Japan faced severe destructions and damages after the Second World War's bomb
explosion in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But over the years with many government
policies the nation's economy and strength have been increasing so much so that
it is the leader of the manufacturing of electrical appliances.
China was under the colonial rule till 1949 and in 1978 the nation implemented
the economic reforms and opened the economy and led to a great increase in the
productivity of the country. Now, China plays a prominent role in the
international trade and receives world's largest investment. Many major
company's manufacturing plants are set up in China.
India had a good working manufacturing sector and economy until the nation was
colonized. India got independence in 1947 but the economy was not well, it was
only in 1991 that the economic reforms were implemented. India also has many
company's manufacturing plants set up and in 2022 is stated by the World Bank as
'the fastest growing economies.'
Brazil is rich with of natural resources and this helps to increase the economy
and productivity of the nation. The labor market conditions have improved since
2015 and the GDP has also risen significantly in 2022.
Though the rest of the world is emerging, America still remains the world's
largest economy, largest consumer market and leading global trader. America
still holds its supremacy in the world and controls most of the international
organizations like United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade
Organization etc. America gives the highest funding to these international
organizations, is one of the 5 permanent members of United Nations Security
Council, has the VETO power and most of the headquarters of these international
organizations are also set up in the nation. These organizations though have
shifted their focus on the other countries but we see still the inclination
towards America in most decisions.
Still we can say that the world system is changing and is becoming MULTIPOLAR.
Written By: Vidya Taneja
Law Article in India
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