From China to North Korea, this region is on the rise. The European Union can compete, but only by sticking together

In 2012, McKinsey analysts, using data from the University of Groningen, released a striking map showing how the global economic centre of gravity has shifted since AD1. Yes, you read that correctly: since Jesus was a year old. Looking at the map now brings a fresh reminder of how Europe’s global position is fast being challenged. Awakening to that reality is why it makes sense to stick together and make the European project thrive, not wither away.

Here’s a glimpse of what the map says. It took one century, from 1820 to 1913, for the centre of gravity (as measured by “weighing” locations’ GDP) to move from Asia to Europe. After the second world war, that point moved across the Atlantic to the United States. In the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, it remained in the western part of the northern hemisphere. Then a dizzying acceleration occurred. In just one decade, from 2000 to 2010, the centre swept back to Asia, reversing almost all the trends of the previous 2,000 years.

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