The developing world is growing faster than us, but don't panic

I'd still rather be growing slowly at a high level of development than the other way round.

Chris Giles and Kate Allen, writing in the FT, highlight the changing pattern of worldwide economic growth:

In 2013, for the first time since mechanisation led Britain down the path of industrialisation in the 19th century, emerging economies will produce the majority of the world’s goods and services. The inhabitants of rich, advanced economies have long represented only a small but powerful proportion of the world’s population. Now, they are less economically important than the mass of people living in the world’s poor and middle-income countries.

They also present a fun little chart of the changing economic "centre of gravity" in the world, showing its shift to the northwest throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, and then sharp reversal after 1960:

The shift is certainly important, in an arbitrary-but-psychologically-important-figure sort of way, but its worth taking proclamations of doom with a pinch of salt. In a follow-up blog post, Allen shows why, presenting the ten fastest-growing economies:

  GDP change, % (2013)
South Sudan 32.1
Libya 20.2
Sierra Leone 17.1
Mongolia 14.0
Paraguay 11.0
Timor-Leste 10.0
Iraq 9.0
Panama 9.0
The Gambia 8.9
Mozambique 8.4

 

The pattern is clear: if you want to top world growth tables, the best thing to do is experience a crippling conflict which destroys most of your productive capacity, and then recover from it. Not only will your annual growth skyrocket because you basically weren't making anything the year before, all the slack in your economy will be taken up with the recovery effort!

Of course, that's not actually something worth aiming for. But it's useful to make the point that when it comes to the developing world overtaking us, it's GDP, not growth, which we should be concerned about.

Now, given China's GDP will outstrip America's in a few years, that's not to say there's nothing to worry about…

A car is parked in the city of Chengdu, China. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.