The Global Shift of Power in the 1600 and 1700s The great affair, we always find, is to get money ~ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IntroductionNationalism, pursuit of wealth and trade opportunities along with religious and scientific motives has led empires and nations to build epicenters of economic, financial and political powers. However, these epicenters of power have consistently changed across the globe causing shifts in geopolitical influences of nations. The aftermath of 2008 financial and economic crisis witnessed another major shift in the balance of economic, financial and political power from the advanced countries to emerging markets – from West to East (“Emerging Markets”), or from the West to the Rest.
This shift is, of course, not the first time that we have seen in the history of geopolitical influences. The meteorotic rise of the West from the 15th century and in parallel, the decline of China, was itself an earlier example, if not mirror image, of such kind of shift. The industrial revolution that gave birth to what is called “The Great Divergence” (the mounting divergence in manufacturing competence and in ability to project power between the first countries to industrialize, chiefly in Europe, and the rest of the world) marked another global shift.
It is no surprise that the first industrial nation, Great Britain, controlled fully a quarter of the world’s population and landmass by the end of the 19th century. There was another transfer of power from the pioneer industrializer, Britain, to imperial Germany that attributed to the economic and geopolitical tensions setting the stage for World War I (Eichengreen). In his thesis, The World in Depression 1929-1939, author Charles Kindleberger notes that the Great Depression of the 1930s was an outcome of the global shift in power from Britain to the United States, one that left an drained Britain unable to manage global economy and an untested United States unwilling to do so.
There was another power paradigm after World War II toward the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and consequently the supremacy of the U. S. over the Western world. Since then, its economic prowness has been gradually declining due to catch-up growth by Europe, Japan and other East Asian powers.
We are today witnessing a shift towards emerging markets like China and India. Declining Eastern Powers in mid 15th century During the 1400s, Ming China was, by far, the leading economic power. It boasted of construction landmarks such as the Great Wall, a standing army with a million troops and mastery of gunpower, printing, papermaking and compasses.
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