A worker in Gurgaon, India, May 2007 Jacob Silberberg / Panos Pictures / Redux
After the turn of the millennium, it became commonplace to hear pundits say that the future belonged to the developing world. These countries were enjoying a run of spectacular growth. Between 2000 and the early 2010s, their share of global GDP more than doubled, from 17 percent to 35 percent. Their average incomes were rapidly catching up to those of developed nations. The share of the global population living on less than $2 a day was cut nearly in half, from 28 percent to 16 percent. Assuming the boom could last indefinitely, writers began to speak of the coming “emerging markets century,” but the phrase that best captured the Zeitgeist was “the rise of the rest.” This vision of a leveled planet, with poor countries growing faster than rich ones and catching up in terms of average income, appealed to anyone rooting for the underdog.
On Wall Street, analysts marketed Brazil, Russia, India, and China as the “BRICs,” suggesting rock-solid growth prospects. Copycats followed with acronyms such as “MINT” (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey) or nicknames such as “the tiger cubs” of Southeast Asia. Each label captured clusters of smaller and smaller emerging markets, all supposedly destined for prosperity. Some warned that it made no sense
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