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Why does China have a lower GDP per capita than countries like Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, and Chile, despite having better technology and broader coverage of various technologies?

Lucas Karl Hahn, 2012年去過中國6周。.
On what basis are you arguing that China has better technology than these countries? Is there some empirical evidence you can cite or is this just a subjective statement? I don't even know what statistics we can use to assess the technology level of an entire country. 4G penetration? Devices connected to the Internet per capita? High-speed rail travel per person per year? Engineers and scientists graduated every year per capita? Technology seems to be a rather fuzzy concept, something difficult to uate and compare across different countries.
NationMaster gives the Technology Index, comparing countries on "companies' spending on R&D, the creativity of its scientific community, personal computer and internet penetration rates". This is good, but imperfect, as things like R&D spending can be manipulated (a deft accountant might expense items such as office space and office supplies as R&D spending for tax purposes). This index puts all 5 countries above China, although the numbers are a bit dated (2005).
Countries Compared by Economy > Technology index. International Statistics at NationMaster.com
China does have a lot of advanced technology, including Maglev trains in Shanghai, which to my knowledge are the only Maglev trains in the world currently operational (Berlin had some around the time of the reunification). This is really cool. China graduates a lot of talented scientists and engineers, and is catching up to the rest of the world in emerging technology industries such as biotechnology, 3D printing, cloud computing and Big Data, the Internet, and renewable energy. In some fields it might actually be leading. This should all be welcomed, as this has the potential to speed up humanity's technological progress. Global brainpower is growing as countries like China and India go from agriculture to manufacturing/basic services to high-tech. The more scientists and engineers, the better, and the faster our leap from a Type 0 Civilization to a Type I Civilization (planetary society).
But for all this, most of the Chinese labor force is very low-tech in the technology they use. There are hundreds of millions in rural areas, and additional tens of millions in the cities as migrant laborers doing things such as washing dishes, using 19th century technology (water pipes and sinks). China's factory workers basically use their hands, assembling tiny electronic components. The fraction of the labor force involved in high-tech is still very small.
As long as China doesn't use its technological prowess for causing trouble (which goes for all countries) this is a good thing.

你憑什么說中國擁有比這些國家更好的技術? 你能舉出一些經驗證據嗎? 或者這只是一個主觀的陳述? 我甚至不知道可以用什么數據來評估整個國家的技術水平。4G普及率?人均上網設備數? 人均每年乘坐高鐵旅行?每年工程師和科學家人均畢業數? 術似乎是一個相當模糊的概念,很難在不同的國家進行評估和比較。


Martin Andrews
China changes rapidly in just 1 year so this is highly outdated.


Quora User
Global innovation index And bloomberg innovation index,China rank no.29 And No.21,Even higher Than many developed countries.2005 data is very old.


Ko Chikit
2005………it’s really dated…China has developed really fast these year


Richard Bourne, 我在中國生活和工作了四年多,為各種跨國公司和當地公司工作。
What does “Better technology and broader coverage of various technologies” mean?
You mean how in China millions of people still live without running water?
You mean how in China nearly a third of the population still uses outhouses to go to the bathroom?
How about how most food is still transported to market without refrigeration causing massive spoilage?
China has some amazing cities that are the envy of the world. It also has some of the poorest, least developed rural areas in the world. It’s a huge gap between urban and rural, much much larger than any of the countries listed. It’s largely a result of the Hukou system, which separates Chinese into 2 different welfare/social systems at birth. It’s been likened to Apartheid, which is probably a little harsh; but it isnt something to be envied.


Larry Chao
It's very easy to answer your question. China population is 1.4 billions, almost 5 times bigger than America population. So no matter how big its national GDP is, divided by 1400000000, GDP per capita will be lower than most country.


Shuo Yang, 碼農和民間經濟學家
China is poorer than these countries in GDP per capita, namely the numbers.
In reality, China may not be poorer than these countries. Let me give you some comparison:
1) Mexico: mexico-labor-cheaper-than-china/ Chinese poor poeple in poor villages live a better life than Mexican slumdogs.
2) Turkey: in ordinary cities, monthly salary for ordinary people is about 1000-1100 Turkish lira (1 Lira = 2.7 RMB = 0.45 US dollar), in big cities: 1500-2000 lira, and there are also many poor villages. In China, the salaries for ordinary poeple are nearly the same as Turkey. But in China, experienced professionals in relatively big cities earn much more than Turkey.
3) Malaysia: salaries of white collars/professionals is a few higher than China except for experienced professionals in China's big cities. But the salary for lower-end factory jobs in Malaysia is lower than China. That's why some factories would like to move from China to Malaysia these years.
I think reasons for low GDP per capita of China
Larger countries tend to have relatively lower GDP per capita. For example, the salaries in Monaco are similar to France and the salaries in Macao are less than France, but the GDP per capita of Monaco is 3 times of France while for Macau it is more than 2 times that of France.
The economic activities of China's rural population (mostly old people and kids) are largely mis-counted, coz they grow food for themselves and exchange business takes place in local rural market. But their life could be better than those slumdogs in Brazil and mexico.

William Wang
How's the living cost at Turkey an Malaysia? At least at Shanghai, it's super expensive.


Shuo Yang
Turkey is more expensive than China while Malaysia is relatively cheap, but not that much except houses.


Three main reasons for that:
China’s population is enormous and GDP per capita means GDP / #population
The wealth inequality in China is extremely high with a few really rich people and loads of people in poverty. The people under poverty line unfortunately contributes little to GDP due to lack of resources but raise the population variable above
Although this is changing faster, China is still a massive producer of less value aggregated sectors to the rest of the world such as labour intensive and natural resources industries e.g clothing, toys, cheap electronics, etc.
But you’re right about China having better tech than most other developing countries although this is recent phenomenon. See the evolution of the Chinese commercial balance with its biggest partner in Latin America: Brazil.

中國人口眾多,人均GDP就是GDP 除以人口。

Chen Zhigong (陳治功), lived in Tianjin, China (1997-2015)
You should know that:
China’s area is 9.6 million km^2, slightly smaller than the entire EUROPE(10.2 million km^2)
China's territory is from the tropical to the cold.
China’s population is 1.38 billion, 4 times of USA’s and 1.7 times of the entire Europe.
So as u can see, China is a very unique country, with both incredible area and incredible population.
So I think those countries you mentioned, are not in the same scale with China. China is more comparable with the entire Europe.
In Europe, there are countries with highly developed economy and advanced technologies, like the UK, France, Germany, etc.
In Europe. there are also poor and backward countries like Moldova, Ukraine, Albania, etc.
In China, the tier 1,2,3,4 cities’s metropolitans, all together have a population about 400-500 millions (about 1/3 of the total population of China), the people live there have a living standard not worse than the West European and American, their income and health care are good, their cities are super beautiful and modern, they enjoy the amazing infrastructure even better and moderner than Western Europe’s or US’s. For those areas, China is a developed, rich and advanced country.
While there are poor provinces like Guizhou, Gansu, Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan,etc, most ppl there live in the countryside and some of them even cannot afford 3 meals of a day. For those areas, China is an undeveloped, poor and backward country.
Always consider: China is a huge country with huge population.

Pavel Kuznetsov
Like others have already said, low GDP per capita is the reason of huge population.
Second reason - why do you think everyone decided to produce in China? Because labor force there is cheap. But low wages = low GDP
What is important to understand, Chinese provinces are very different.
And there are places, where GDP per capita is relatively big.
Examples are Tianjin and Beijing, where GDP per capita weighted by purchasing power parity is 25 and 21 thousand USD.

第二個原因——你認為為什么每個國家都決定在中國生產? 為那里的勞動力很便宜。但是低工資=低GDP。

Quan Cheng, works at Cairo University
You know Lybia has a GDP per capita over 20,000 dollars right? It still doesn't stop Lybia from becoming an undisirable country to live in. And you know why Lybia has such a high GDP per capita? The oil, of course.
So now you look at Brazil for example, China is Brazil's main export destination, which mainly consisted of raw minerals, agricultural products and ores. But Brazil imported basically everything from China. Plus, Brazil has the highest GINI index of the whole world, which means it has the biggest gap between rich and poor. I think poor Brazilians are living worse than poor Chinese, even Brazil almost doubles China's GDP per capita.

你知道利比亞的人均GDP超過2萬美元,對吧? 它仍然沒有阻止利比亞成為一個無法生存的國家。你知道為什么利比亞的人均GDP如此之高嗎?當然是石油。

You can think about what is wealth. Wealth is not just a number on paper of your bank account. Wealth is real staff, such as food, land, water, electricity and oil etc. China has 20% of world population, but only 7% of arable land. It is poorer than world average on every metric of per capita resources. If China has only a small population and happen to be an US ally, it would be easily solved by trading with US to share its global trade power, but China is big and unfortunately not considered as an US ally.
A simple example, each US farmer has 10000 acres of land, while each Chinese farmer has 4 acres of land. It doesn't matter how hard they work, what kind technology they use, their productivity is bounded by resources.


James Kielkopf, 經濟學家,公共政策顧問,農民
Because, despite China's very recent, intentional shift to embrace urbanization, a large part of its population is still rural based and not participating in China's exchange-based economy from which GDP's can be calculated. The other countries have been part of the capitalist world for a lot longer, so more of their economy has been brought into the urban, market economy and is counted in GDP calculations. China's urban economy -- its economic elite -- is quite large however --larger in scale than many advanced capitalist economies entirely, providing a technological infrastructure for the Chinese elite that can easily surpass the scale and depth of all of the other mid-income developing countries.


Populations (around numbers)
Mexico: 118 million
Brazil: 201 million
Turkey: 76 million
Argentina: 43 million
Chile: 17 million
Malaysia: 30 million
The total number of population of these countries: 485 million
GDP (PPP) by country
Mexico: $1.927 trillion. $16,111 per capita.
Brazil: $2.505 trillion. $12,526 per capita.
Turkey: $1.426 trillion. $19,080 per capita.
Argentina: $404.483 billion. $18,917 per capita.
Chile: $335.579 billion. $19,067 per capita.
Malaysia: $555.912 billion. $18,509 per capita.
Now let's look at China.
Population: 1.350 billion
GDP: $14.625 trillion. $10,695 per capita.
As you can see China isn't poorer than any of those countries, it's the other way around. It is poorer "per capita" and it's the result of population and the size of China. China has a lot more population than all those countries combined and also the fourth largest country in the world by area.


Donghwan Kim, College Student. Korean Canadian.
Not many answers explain the two core reasons:
GDP per capita should be compared, not with the “total national technology”, but with “technology per capita”, whatever the criteria is. For example, Sweden has fewer technology than Germany, but per capita basis Sweden has more technology, and Sweden has higher GDP per capita than Germany.
GDP per capita is very dependent on that of your trade partners, mostly neighbors. This is because trade partners often have FTA that decreases the cost of import/export, and hence GDP per capita converges to some degree. Also, close proximity decreases transportation cost, further supporting the converge. Of the three major export markets of China(excluding Hong Kong), only South Korea had recently signed FTA, and USA and Japan are in hostile terms to China. To make things worse, most of the other Chinese neighbors have GDP per capita lower than that of China.

just compare the GDP per capita while ingoring the scale and population of a country is meaningless. you can imagin that if there is a city country with no much technology ,one day found enough oil under its ground. so the GDP per cpita can quickly rise to a developed country level… or a city country with good management focus on developing its port business and travelling …it is much easier to become rich..but for a huge scale country. things get more difficult !


Axel Zgaib
i dont think china has better technology, at least thats not what i see in in the products they make. im from Argentina and i have tried products from all of this coutries, argentinean, chilean, mexican and brazilian products have variable quality but they are ALWAYS better than their chinese equivalents, the few turkish products that i have access to are also much better than the Chinese


Wang Xing
Have you ever tried Brazilian High speed railway? or Argentinean smart phone? Or Mexican super computer? Or Chilean mix-power car? Do you have a Turkish fourth generation nuclear power plant in your country?


Axel Zgaib
we bought regular chinese trains about a year ago and many of them broke almost immediately, while we have argentinean trains made in the 50s that still work perfectly. in my privince theres a company called INVAP that makes satellites and nuclear plants (among many other things) that have been exported to countries like Australia and the Netherlands, also im tiping this in an argentinean smartphone, as for the other countries: chile has little industries because of their extremely free market, but the ones that exist are very competitive. Mexico is an industrial power. personally i own a hatsan air rifle and it is WAY better than any of the chinese ones that i have owned or tried.


Chris Chen
One thing I would like to share with you is that among all those countries, China has the highest manufacturing value per worker followed by Chile. It means China has the most advanced industrial capability among all those countries.
By the way, China has surpassed the USA to become the country that filed the most international patents in 2018.


Sarp Keskin, International Trade and Supply Chain Management Professional, Consultant
It is already mentioned in many great answers. To add, I can say that I do not believe GDP is a sign of anything regarding the development of the country.
For a extremely large country like China, you may check some other points such as geographic GDP distribution rather than per capita, and also purchasing power parity (PPP). Gini Coefficient is another point to be considered and I believe it is the real trouble for China rather than GDP per capita.


Gustavo Benatti, lives in Brazil
Mathematics. There is simply too many people in China.
Iceland has a much higher GDP per capita than Brazil. You think that means Iceland has better technology than Brazil? The number of students in my university makes it’s main campus more populous than Iceland’s 2nd most populous city.