Can China and India Save the World?

A pillar in all bullish arguments for the global economy is that China and India will carry the weight of industrialized nations due to their insatiable demand for a better way of life. While they will certainly try, the risk of both nations hitting a wall is increasing as that insatiable demand consumes increasingly more resources.

Ignoring the rest of the world, The US, China and India are expected to increase their daily consumption of oil by almost 10 million barrels per day by 2025. Economic advancement over the last 150 years has been highly correlated with the consumption of oil and other fossil fuels. Without this increase in consumption of oil at low prices, the world will experience no growth. With such large populations, and leverage to energy consumption it is unclear if China and India can live up to their high hopes of leading the world out of the current global economic slump.

  Image cannot be displayed

Global crude oil production peaked in 2005 and has plateaued at 74 million barrels per day. Global consumption took a small dip in the wake of the 2008 financial crises, however now that economies are recovering consumption levels are back on the rise. The result will be an inevitable rise in oil prices.

A 0 increase in the price of oil would cost an additional trillion in direct consumption expenses globally - effectively reducing global GDP by 5.1 percent. While some of this wealth may be transferred to oil exporting nations, this is not a zero sum game. If oil shale or deep water drilling is used to replace current low cost supplies than oil producers will be spending nearly 0 in additional productions costs and realizing none of the financial gains to offset the losses from consuming nations.

Most developing nations that are driving global economic growth are highly dependent on energy consumption. Although The US, EU, and Japan consume large amounts of energy, these nations have less leverage to the price of oil in relation to their GDP. If the price of oil were to rise by 0, China would suffer from a direct 6 percent hit to their economy, and India would suffer from an 8 percent hit to their economy.

  Image cannot be displayed

Another important consideration for countries is their foreign dependency on oil. While Russia has a high level of leverage in oil consumption, it is also a net exporter. As a result, Russian oil supplies are relatively secure. The two most vulnerable nations in the world to an oil shock are Japan and South Korea as they import more than 97 and 98 percent of their oil respectively. Both nations are also highly urbanized with very little arable land. These nations would not survive a halt in global oil trade. The EU, China and India are also highly dependent on oil imports.

  Image cannot be displayed

Argentina and Brazil are in a unique position of being self sufficient in oil production and consumption. They also have vast amounts of arable land. As a result, they would be least affected by an oil shock.

  Image cannot be displayed

Capacity of arable land is a strong indicator of potential for economic prosperity if energy prices spike because the arable land supports farming and food production.


Japan is probably the most economically vulnerable nation in the world. Now that the US, and Europe, are also financially insolvent energy consumers, the world is turning to nations such as India and China to drive global growth. However, their large population and leverage to the price of energy create a situation of great risk. If peak oil is realized within the next five years, then growth prospects in India and China will be reduced drastically. The result will be negative global GDP growth and a reduced standard of living for virtually all nations.

South and Central American nations including Brazil and Argentina may have the best chances of coming out ahead as they are energy independent, have lower populations than Asia, and the most unused arable land.

About the Author