Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common way of measuring a country's economy. In 2018, US GDP was roughly $20 trillion. China's was $13 trillion. Japan was next at around $5 trillion.
But GDP fluctuates, and the countries with the largest GDP has changed significantly over time. The video below helps visualize those changes. A few points to note:
- In the early 1960s, except for the United States, the countries with the largest economies were still recovering from World War II. When your country was destroyed by non-stop aerial bombardment, it wreaks long-term havoc on your ability to produce at-scale economically. So do massive wartime debts that must be repaid through austerity.
- In the 1980s and 1990s, Japan's economy was booming. It ended up being close to three-fifths the size of the US.
- China entered the WTO in 2001 and, since the mid-200s, it has expanded rapidly. In total volume, although not in per-capita terms, it is fast approaching the US.
- We are now in a two-horse race: the red horse and the red-white-and-blue horse.