Where’s Asia?/Expanding Europe

You can find the GDP of countries and continents and famous groups of countries on the World Bank’s (WB) website.   Examples of groups are the Arab world, the EU, South Asia.

But you cannot find the GDP of Europe there or the GDP of Asia there.  There is one of the European Union, but we know that not all countries in Europe are in the EU.  There is South Asia, there is East Asia & the Pacific and there is South Asia.  

In nominal dollars, Asia is already 37% of the world’s GDP (in PPP terms, it’s more than 50%).  

What about Europe? 

The EU is at only 18%.  I have included the EEA (European Economic Area) and also the UK to arrive at 22%.  Adding non-EEA countries and all of Russia into the mix, we get 25%. But you would never know from the World Bank’s site.  I did the math by collecting the countries in Europe and adding them up

You can’t find a Europe bloc at the WB site. Instead, you find a category called “Europe and Central Asia”.  I don’t know the rationale for considering Iceland and Tajikistan together. They are not really united by culture, religion or as a trade bloc.  Unless…you went about finding the collection of countries of white skin color.  But why is the World Bank choosing that as an aggregation criterion?

Asia, on the other hand…

Asia is a familiar concept to all.  There is some question about whether Russia lies in Europe or Asia, with the Urals generally considered the boundary.  The boundary between Asia and Africa is generally considered to be the Sinai peninsula (or Suez canal) in Egypt.  So you could presumably, add up the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and South East Asia. to find the total for Asia.  But that’s simply not possible because the Middle East is lumped with “Middle East and North Africa” (as if Iran, Israel and Morocco are in the same region – well, they are about the same if you have the European gaze, I guess. ).  East Asia is lumped with “East Asia and Pacific” which includes New Zealand and Australia.  And Central Asia is lumped with “Europe and Central Asia”.  There is no separate ASEAN.

Where is Asia?

Where is the concept of Asia from this kind of map, with which children around the world get familiar by middle school? Not finding it, I had to again add it all up by individual countries (giving up all of Russia to Europe) to find that it has 37.1% of the world’s GDP.  

I can’t help suspecting…

Europe was for a couple of centuries, the top economic power of the world, containing the bulk of the world’s GDP.  For all of history before that, that status belonged to Asia.  For a while, while under the colonial yoke of Europe, Asia’s GDP was indeed much smaller.  The rule of thumb at the turn of the century was Europe ⅓ of the world’s GDP, the US has ⅓ and the remaining world has the last third.  This is not true anymore.

As Europe is in decline, one way to avoid acknowledging the fact that it is slipping in prominence is simply to refuse to report these numbers, instead engaging in fancy footwork such as the ones above.  Eventually, all white-enough countries can be declared European so that “and Central Asia” will not be a required adjustment at all.

That leaves one thinking and wondering about why the World Bank (an American dominated institution, unlike the European-dominated IMF) wants to think along these lines.

Other notes:

You can find the GDP of North America, but not South America.  It’s “Latin America and the Carribean”.  North America has 3 countries – US, Canada and Bermuda!!! Again, it’s somehow broken down by some white American view of what constitutes a region, not any data. For example, Mexico and Peru are nowhere in an enumeration of each other’s top trading partners, which are the US, China, Japan, Korea etc.

Here is the final table from my additions

Continent/Region% of 2020 GDP (84.7 trillion USD)
North America26.7%
Latin America5.7%
Australia & NZ1.9%
Total accounted for99.1%

Note: I’d started composing this post long before the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, so not prompted by that, but more on that one later.