WASHINGTON — The world's biggest economies are recovering from the Great Recession at troublesome speeds: too fast or too slow.
China, India and other major developing countries quickly returned to breakneck rates of growth after escaping the worst of the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009. Their rapid recoveries showed for the first time that emerging economies have grown big and strong enough to thrive independently while the United States and other rich countries struggle.
And today, to an unprecedented degree, the developing world is driving the global recovery, instead of relying on the United States for economic leadership as it used to. This picture emerges from The Associated Press' new Global Economy Tracker, a quarterly analysis of 22 countries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's economic output.
The shakeup in the world's economic order has taken 30 years. The developing world's share of global economic output has risen from 18 percent in 1980 to 26 percent last year, the World Bank says. So growth in emerging markets now has a far bigger effect on the world's economic performance.
Leading the transformation is China, an economic backwater three decades ago that last year replaced Japan as the world's second-biggest economy. Japan, after more than a decade of stagnation, is struggling again in the aftermath of the earthquake and nuclear disaster that struck earlier this month.
Rapid growth in emerging economies has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and created vast consumer markets for U.S. goods and services. At the same time, "this two-track world poses some unusual risks," warns Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University. He and others fear that too much money flowing to developing economies is driving up commodity prices and inflating dangerous bubbles in emerging market stocks and housing prices.