Economy of Asia

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Economy of Asia
Population4.6 billion (60% of the world)
GDP$31.58 trillion (Nominal; 2019)[1]
$65.44 trillion (PPP; 2019)[1]
GDP growth
5.7% (2017)[2]
GDP per capita
$7,351 (2019; 5th)[3]
5.12 million (2016)[4]
Unemployment3.8% (2010 est.)
Most numbers are from the International Monetary Fund.

All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.

The economy of Asia comprises more than 4.5 billion people (60% of the world population) living in 49 different nations.[5] Six further states lie partly in Asia, but are considered to belong to another region economically and politically. Asia is the fastest growing economic region, as well as the largest continental economy by both GDP Nominal and PPP in the world.[6] China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia are currently the top five economies in Asia. Moreover, Asia is the site of some of the world's longest modern economic booms, starting from the Japanese economic miracle (1950–1990), Miracle on the Han River (1961–1996) in South Korea, economic boom (1978–2013) in China and economic boom in India (1991–present).

As in all world regions, the wealth of Asia differs widely between, and within, states. This is due to its vast size, meaning a huge range of different cultures, environments, historical ties and government systems. The largest economies in Asia in terms of PPP gross domestic product (GDP) are China, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia and Bangladesh and in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) are China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Wealth (if measured by GDP per capita) is mostly concentrated in the East Asia in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Brunei, as well as in oil rich countries in West Asia such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman. Israel and, to a lesser extent Turkey are exceptions: both lie in the territory of Asia despite not often being counted as such. Israel (entrepreneurship on diversified industries) is a developed country, while Turkey (founding member of OECD) is an advanced emerging country. South Asia is also considered very rich in the Asian community, with some of the world's major powerhouses like India and Pakistan. Asia, with the exception of Japan (heavy industry and electrical sophistication), South Korea (heavy industry and information and communication technology), Taiwan (light industry and hi-tech parts manufacturing), Hong Kong (financial industry and services) and Singapore (high-tech manufacturing, biotechnology, financial and business services, and tourism governed by Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore) in recent years, is currently undergoing rapid growth and industrialization, and China (manufacturing and FDI-led growth[7]) and India (commodities, outsourcing destination and computer software), the two fastest growing major economies in the world.

East Asian and Southeast Asian countries generally rely on manufacturing and trade (and then gradually upgrade to industry and commerce[8]), and incrementally building on high-tech industry and financial industry[9] for growth, countries in the Middle East depend more on engineering to overcome climate difficulties for economic growth and the production of commodities, principally Sweet crude oil.[10] Over the years, with rapid economic growth and large trade surplus with the rest of the world, Asia has accumulated over US$4 trillion of foreign exchange reserves – more than half of the world's total, and adding tertiary and quaternary sectors to expand in the share of Asia's economy.

List of Asian countries by GDP[edit]

This is an alphabetically sorted list of Asian countries, with their factual and estimated gross domestic product data by the International Monetary Fund[11].

territory GDP nominal
millions of USD
GDP nominal per capita
millions of USD
GDP PPP per capita
Total 31,582 7,351 65,441 15,235
 Afghanistan 19,990 587 76,160 2,081 South Asia
 Armenia 13,105 4,446 32,893 10,995 West Asia
 Azerbaijan 45,248 4,778 188,878 18,776 West Asia
 Bahrain 38,952 27,538 78,760 52,129 West Asia
 Bangladesh 314,656 1,888 831,750 4,992 South Asia
 Bhutan 2,811 2,886 7,045 10,010 South Asia
 Brunei 13,325 27,893 32,838 83,783 Southeast Asia
 Myanmar 65,966 1,242 372,756 7,035 Southeast Asia
 Cambodia 22,252 1,389 64,405 4,010 Southeast Asia
 China (PRC) 14,216,503 10,153 27,331,166 19,519 East Asia
 Hong Kong (PRC) 381,720 50,541 502,373 66,517 East Asia
 Georgia West Asia
 India 10,971,996 7,198 20,468,022 10,483 South Asia
 Indonesia 1,110,937 4,128 3,742,966 14,028 Southeast Asia
 Iran 484,663 5,820 1,540,872 18,504 West Asia
 Iraq 250,070 6,116 733,926 17,952 West Asia
 Israel 381,617 48,054 316,120 36,250 West Asia
 Japan 10,500,205 41,021 5,749,550 45,564 East Asia
 Jordan 40,487 5,677 89,555 12,487 West Asia
 Kazakhstan 156,189 8,585 472,563 26,071 Central Asia
 North Korea N/A N/A N/A N/A East Asia
 South Korea 1,699,683 32,765 2,241,563 43,211 East Asia
 Kuwait 118,271 27,236 309,640 69,669 West Asia
 Kyrgyzstan 7,061 1,139 22,737 3,652 Central Asia
 Laos 17,152 2,567 44,639 7,367 Southeast Asia
 Lebanon 52,698 11,683 88,786 19,486 West Asia
 Macau (PRC) 53,961 81,585 78,111 118,098 East Asia
 Malaysia 373,447 11,392 1060,836 32,450 Southeast Asia
 Maldives 4,520 12,568 5,853 19,178 South Asia
 Mongolia 10,869 3,552 37,731 12,551 East Asia
   Nepal 27,278 918 84,365 2,842 South Asia
 Oman 86,525 19,689 212,659 48,393 West Asia
 Pakistan 278,019 1,357 1,195,446 5,839 South Asia
 Philippines 354,313 3,245 1,041,132 9,537 Southeast Asia
 Qatar 192,450 70,779 354,762 130,475 West Asia
 Saudi Arabia 790,062 22,870 2,006,154 58,073 West Asia
 Singapore 391,875 68,487 615,698 107,604 Southeast Asia
 Sri Lanka 98,041 4,469 311,889 14,219 South Asia
 Syria N/A N/A N/A N/A West Asia
 Taiwan (ROC) 626,722 26,517 1,306,745 55,290 East Asia
 Tajikistan 7,350 807 30,547 3,354 Central Asia
 Thailand 516,662 7,607 1,390,484 20,474 Southeast Asia
 Timor-Leste 3,145 2,422 7,221 5,561 Southeast Asia
 Turkmenistan 42,764 7,411 112,659 19,526 Central Asia
 Turkey West Asia
 United Arab Emirates 432,612 41,476 732,861 70,262 West Asia
 Uzbekistan 40,259 1,238 238,997 7,350 Central Asia
 Vietnam 241,434 2,552 707,620 7,482 Southeast Asia
 Yemen 28,524 925 73,348 2,380 West Asia

Economic development[edit]

Ancient and medieval times[edit]

China and India alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 AD. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east,[12][13][14][15] and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia,[16] attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of America by Columbus in search for India demonstrates this deep fascination. The Silk Road became the main East-West trading route in the Asian hitherland while the Straits of Malacca stood as a major sea route.


Prior to World War II, most of Asia was under colonial rule. Only relatively few states managed to remain independent in the face of constant pressure exerted by European power. Such examples are China, Siam and Japan.[17]

Japan in particular managed to develop its economy due to a reformation in the 19th century. The reformation was comprehensive and is today known as the Meiji Restoration.[18] The Japanese economy continued to grow well into the 20th century and its economic growth created various shortages of resources essential to economic growth. As a result, the Japanese expansion began with a great part of Korea and China annexed, thus allowing the Japanese to secure strategic resources.[19]

At the same time, Southeast Asia was prospering due to trade and the introduction of various new technologies of that time. The volume of trade continued to increase with the opening of the Suez Canal in the 1860s. Manila had its Manila galleon wherein products from the Philippine islands and China were traded with Spanish America and Europe from 1571 to 1815.[20] The Spanish colony of the Philippines was the first Asian territory to trade with the Americas, from Manila to Acapulco. The route continued overland across present-day Mexico to Veracruz on the Atlantic coast, then to Havana and Seville, forming the first global trade route. Silk, porcelain, ivory, tobacco, coconut and corn were some of the goods exported from Asia to the Americas and Europe, through the Philippines.

Singapore, founded in 1819, rose to prominence as trade between the east and the west increased at an incredible rate. The British colony of Malaya, now part of Malaysia, was the world's largest producer of tin and rubber. The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, on the other hand, was known for its spices production. Both the British and the Dutch created their own trading companies to manage their trade flow in Asia. The British created the British East India Company while the Dutch formed Dutch East India Company. Both companies maintained trade monopolies of their respective colonies.[21][22][23]

In 1908, crude oil was first discovered in Persia, modern day Iran. Afterwards, many oil fields were discovered and it was learnt later that the Middle East possesses the world's largest oil stocks. This made the rulers of the Arab nations very rich though the socioeconomic development in that region lagged behind.[24]

In the early 1930s, the world underwent a global economic depression, today known as the Great Depression. Asia was not spared, and suffered the same pain as Europe and the United States. The volume of trade decreased dramatically all around Asia and indeed the world. With falling demand, prices of various goods starting to fall and further impoverished locals and foreigners alike. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria and subsequently the rest of China and south-east Asia in what eventually became the Asia-pacific leg of World War II.[25]


Following World War II, the People's Republic of China and India, which account for half of the population of Asia, adopted socialist policies to promote their domestic economy. These policies limited the economic growth of the region. They are being abandoned in India and reformed in China. In contrast, the economies of Japan and the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong) were economic successes, and the only successful economies outside of the Western World.[26] The success of these four economies led other Southeast Asian countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand to follow suit in opening up their economies and setting up export-oriented manufacturing bases that boosted their growth throughout the 1980s and the 1990s.[27]

One of the most pronounced Asian economic phenomenons during this time, the Japanese post-war economic miracle, greatly impacted the rest of the world. After World War II, under