China has done extremely well over the last 30 years. But was the Chinese case exceptional? Given the number of people that China's rise has impacted, it is rightly treated a huge story. The question for this post how comparable economies did in the last 4-5 decades (depending on data availability).
Using the data from the Mauro and Ho (2014) paper, it is easy to look at the long-run performance of all large economies. In this chart, I show the (annualized) growth rates of China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria, by decade:
I take away a few points from the chart:
- The magnitude and the persistence of China's growth were not just unusual - they were a league apart.
- In each decade, China grew faster in the "current" decade than in any of the preceding decades. (Decadal averages were monotonically increasing for China).
- The 1960s and 1970s were an extremely difficult period for China: but its economy grew faster than India's or Nigeria's even then.
- But China did a lot worse in the 1970s than Indonesia.
- In the second half of the twentieth century, India lost several decades to slow growth.
- Indonesia had the least volatile growth rates in the sample (SD=1.87).
- If we restrict the time period to the post-1980 period, growth volatility was very low China (SD=0.8), moderate in India (SD=1.5), and very high in Nigeria (SD=4.9).
- Emerging markets typically grow faster than developed economies, but that stereotype was misleading/wrong in the case of Nigeria much of the time since the 1950s.