Will China catch up with South Korea in GDP per capita within 20 years?




Darrell Francis, lived in South Korea

It depends on how you measure GDP. If you're using nominal GDP, it will be virtually impossible for China to catch-up with South Korea in 20 years. For China to reach the same level of GDP per capita as South Korea has today in 20 years, GDP per capita would need to grow by at least 10% every year. To match South Korea in 20 years would require greater sustained growth than China has ever seen.

If you're using real GDP, the goal of surpassing South Korea becomes a little less daunting. For China's GDP per capita in 20 years to match South Korea's current GDP per capita, it would only require 6% annual growth, which is high, but possible. China's ability to surpass South Korea would then depend on how much South Korea grows over the next 20 years. Given that South Korea's GDP per capita is still growing at over 4% annually, this will be a challenge.

Competition from China is unlikely to greatly diminish the South Korean economy. The growing economy of China means the opening up of a massive consumer market which is a major opportunity for both China and South Korea. There may be more Chinese products on the market, but the market will also be much larger.





Glenn Luk, Invests in China

Barring war or some enormous massive disaster befalling South Korea, no they won't.

There is only one scenario where I can see them getting close and that is if the Koreas decide to re-unite.  Today, a hypothetical combined Korea would have 75 million people and per capita GDP (PPP adjusted) of around $23k [1].  China today has a per capita GDP of around $11k.  If China grows at 6% real and the combined Korea at 2%, my friend Math says they reach parity in 20 years.

But this is also a very, very low probability scenario within a 20-year window.  The two Koreas have diverged so much the costs of reunification would be enormous.




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Lee Szi Kiat

Honestly? It is very, very hard to say. While the answers above are reasonable, I somehow do disagree, with respect of course.


It seems to me that most of us, which is entirely human nature, to extrapolate indefinitely in the future, which is where we get all the "China surpassing USA" data. It might happen, OR it might not happen. It is set more than a decade into the future, we don't know.


Can you tell me what would happen tomorrow? An earthquake? A lottery win? Constipation? No.


My point is, China is growing reasonably fast now, but it may not be so in the future. When it reaches the point of maturity, which is now, it will slow down, as you can see now. China might hit a huge wall and fall into recession, which is also entirely possible. Much more of a probability then China never going through a recession. Growth rates will slow, everything will normalize. It is pointless to make judgements based on today's performance, because it might change tomorrow or even the next second.


The best way we can predict, in my opinion, is that we look at data that contributes to the future. Such as demographics, which are absolutely essential (as shown in the case of Japan), investments in R&D and so on.


I feel that China has too large of a population to satisfy all of its citizens needs. So to me, no, China might not be able to catch up to South Korea in per capita in 20 years or longer, accounting to the fact of inevitable negative shocks, ie. falling growth, recessions, demographics.



Karen Ip, studied at University of Melbourne

Within 20 years? Definitely no.

1.No matter how much China will and has achieved, whenever you have to divide that amount into 1.4 billion, it will not be a huge number.

2.The last recorded GDP per capita for Korea is USD26,152.03 in Y2017, whilst China is USD7329.09. South Korea is 3.56 times of GDP per capita of China.

3.In Y2012, the Chinese government announced their target of doubling their GDP per capita based on GDP per capita in Y2010 (which is USD4,560.51) in Y2020. (That is, To reach USD9,121.02 per capita).

4.Assuming Y2038 is the 20 years deadline, and China is able to double her GDP per capita every 10 years since Y2018 (which is unlikely because the economic growth rate is slowing down as it gets more developed), China’s GDP per capita will be around 31,075.34 — here is the most optimistic estimate.

5.Korea GDP per capita with an assumption of a modest annual growth of 2% will reach USD38,860.54 20 years later.

6.I think it will make more sense if one compare a large mega city in China ( like Shanghai, Shenzhen) to similar population of South Korea will be more appropriate measure.









Sol Pao, Assistant Professor at China University of Technology (2004-present)

I will say it’s a highly possible scenario.


Again, I will recommend this article first:$123,000,000,000,000*

The author Robert Fogel is “director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and winner of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.”

This article was published in 2010 - when China’s GDP was just one third of now. Remember that, and have a look on how those netizens criticize him. They laugh at the economist, say he must be a fool or something more mean. See what happened eight years on.



Then, see how President Trump do to smaller countries. Big country have a lot advantage to small one. Big country have bigger market and stronger army, and the small one can just bite the smaller pie after the big one was fulled. It’s the harsh reality, and it’s also the reason that makes European countries try to unite - if they could. When compared with the USA or USSR, those previous powers in Europe is just not big enough.


Now, even Germany is just like a province in China, and South Korea is more so, i.e.. Guangdong Province in southern China have twice her population and equal her GDP.


Now, not just Robert Fogel, but also Graham Allison, David Daokui Li, Justin Yifu Lin, and many others, also expect a Chinese GDP three times of the USA in 2040. China is beating South Korea in many industrial sectors, and I won’t see any possibility for Korea to escape it.


Biggest country grasps the highest, most profitable industries, like the USA did. China will also follow this way. This reality means a lot for smaller countries, but it’s the truth.


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