The dynamics of US-China trade centrality

The animation shows the dynamics of international trading networks (in a “hub-and-spoke”, or weighted bipartite network) around the US in the 1980s and 1990s, and then, in a data-driven way, the emergence of China’s centrality after WTO accession. US centrality has diminished sharply since 2000; the rise of China’s centrality comes together with the growth of ASEAN as modern trading nations.

In the animation, trading partners are indicated by 2-digit ISO codes; the length between the US and another node is inversely proportional to the essentiality of trade with the US to the node. Similarly, for China as incipient and then important hub. The more tightly clustered around the US (or China) is the collection of nodes, the more essential is the US (or China) to its network of trading partners.

The size of the tight blue circle around the US denotes the US’s centrality. Centrality is the weighted sum of that hub’s ties with its network. The more central is the US in its network of trading partners, the larger is its tight blue circle. Similarly, China.

Animation from my working paper, “A Bifurcated Marketplace for World Order: Network Centrality and the US-China Trade Conflict” (in progress). In the paper I define your essentiality to me as the ratio of the total trade I do with you relative to my total GDP: the higher is your essentiality, the more, proportionally, you figure in my economic life. So the closer in a node is towards the hub, the more important is the hub to that node. A measure of the hub’s total essentiality is its centrality, i.e., the weighted sum of that hub’s network ties.

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