Economics is a powerful force that has shaped countries and empires as far back as history records. Economic trends have had diverse affects, helping cause World War Two, the collapse of the Soviet Economy and the deomcratisation of South Korea and Japan among many others. In recent times the importance of economic power may have even increased.
What caused the Soviet Union, one of the world's two great superpowers to fall apart in less than six years? This series tries to shed some light on those confused and uncertain years before the fall of the USSR.
In the years between 1368 and 1800 China's economy expanded immensely. However steady compounding growth in China's population was the main driver of this growth. Agriculture, industry and trade thus increased in absolute terms but stagnated in relative per capita terms.
The traditional Chinese world order utilised the tribute system to place China at the centre of the civilised world. In exchange for recognising China's superiority, other states were granted permission to trade with China. It was this China centric world order that European ships sailed into in 1517.
The Russian Empire at the turn of the twentieth century was governed by an ancient autocratic system. By the time Alexander III was crowned to head of the system, Russia had lost its position as a great power.
Japan as a have-not country felt the distribution of natural resources in the world was unfair and in Manchuria and China proper saw its opportunity to right the balance. The need for a larger economic base was closely linked with Japanese conceptions of coming wars, the effect of the great depression and a rise in anti-Japanese feeling in China. Japan, while making strides in Manchuria, never met its goal of economic self-sufficiency.
Economic development is con/asia/ducive to democratisation but is not sufficient for its achievement. For while economic growth provides people with the spare time and resources to partake in politics and also creates the demand for it, it does not automatically ensure democratisation takes place.
Throughout history military power has been paramount and economic power merely a luxury. This has slowly changed to the point that the two roles have now been reversed. Japan, China and even the United States have relied on economic prosperity to finance formidable military forces. Conversely the Soviet Union, Iraq and North Korea have relied on their military power to try to build economic power with little or limited success