There are now legitimate concerns that consumption demand from Europe and North America will remain weak for years.
Indebted, unemployed and uncertain of future pensions, consumers in the West may take a long time to spend again.
The conventional view is that emerging markets cannot fill the void because they are essentially producers and exporters rather than consumers and, consequently, weak demand in the West is seen to doom the rest of the world to stagnation.
Fortunately, there is reason to believe that the world is no longer so lopsided.
China is now the world’s second largest economy but, as many commentators like to point out, private consumption accounts for only a third of its economy (compared with 70% in the US).
However, even allowing for the low share of private consumption, the combined size of the consumer markets in developing countries is no longer small.
China already has a great deal of clout. We can gauge this from the fact that in 2010, China sold 18.4 million cars compared with 11.8 million in the US.
Things are changing rapidly in other developing countries as well. Moreover, the increase in consumption is not just restricted to goods but is clearly visible in services such as entertainment and telecommunications.
The Indian Premier League, for instance, is now the second highest-paying sports league in the world after the NBA. What makes this especially remarkable is that the cricket tournament was started as recently as April 2008.
While emerging markets as a whole have become more important, it should be recognized that Asia is at the heart of the transformation. With a 60% share of consumer demand, Asia dominates the emerging markets.
People tend to focus on China and India, but Asia also includes other populous countries like Indonesia (population 244 million) and rich ones like South Korea.
Indeed, the combined economic size of small Asian nations like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea now adds up to that of United Kingdom.