There is no smoldering crisis, but global economic geography is changing in ways both quick and quirky. Since 2008, the share of the world’s economies that are converging to the per capita income of the United States has fallen from nearly 90 percent to less than 50 percent. Trade is in retreat, and international flows of capital have dropped to a fraction of what they were a decade ago. At the same time, new technologies promise—or threaten—to radically change the shape and size of cities, regions, and international trade.
These changes are manifest in worrisome developments. In India and Africa, cities are becoming clogged with people as urbanization gathers speed. In Europe and the United States, migrants are getting an increasingly hostile reception. In East and Central Asia, China is suddenly cementing trade and investment relations with its neighbors, coaxing them into adopting a “Chinese model” of development, and making others jittery.