China: This century's champion in wealth creation
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, China and other emerging economies took over as the engine of wealth generation.
China started the century from a lower base, but grew at a much faster pace during the early years. It was one of the few countries to avoid the impact of the global financial crisis. Since the year 2000, total household wealth in China has risen from USD 3.7 trillion to USD 63.8 trillion, a multiple of more than 17.
Total household wealth in China
(in billion USD)
The "golden age" of the early 21st century
The early years of this century saw the most remarkable spell of wealth creation in recent history. It was notable not only for the rapid expansion – total wealth grew at an annual rate exceeding 10% – but also for the breadth of coverage. Wealth increased significantly in every region of the world. Emerging market economies, especially China and India, did not simply benefit from this growth, but drove much of the action.
The global financial crisis marks a seismic change in wealth creation history
Since 2008, average real USD wealth growth in Europe has been negative, in part due to the retrenchment of the euro. North America has taken the lead among the developed nation groupings, accounting for one-third of the rise in global wealth per adult. However, China has more than matched North America in the post-crisis era. Other emerging market economies have also made a significant contribution to real global growth since 2008. The net result is that emerging economies including China account for two-thirds of the real wealth gain since 2008, or double the contribution of North America.
The wealth pyramid shows China's success
The growing prosperity of emerging economies, especially China, and the expansion of the middle class in the developing world is clearly visible in the changes to the wealth pyramid. The two middle segments, covering those with the wealth of USD 10,000–100,000 and USD 100,000 to USD 1 million, have expanded significantly this century. The main feature of these segments is the dominance of China, which accounts for 38% of the total membership, compared to 9% from India, 7% from Latin America, and just 3% from Africa.
Chinese millennials to inherit the new wealth
For developed countries and emerging economies alike, inheritances are expected to have significant wealth distribution consequences in the future. The impact will be most evident in China, where the repercussions of the one-child policy will combine with enormous new wealth in a society in which personal wealth was previously very limited.
On the way to the top
China's progress has enabled it to replace Europe as the principal source of global wealth growth and to replace Japan as the country with the second-largest number of millionaires. More tellingly, China overtook the United States this year to become the country with most people in the top 10% of global wealth distribution. And although the "new world" has not yet overtaken the "old world" as the source of most new millionaires, that prospect is fast approaching.