The last few decades of globalization and innovation have resulted in the most rapid progress that the world has ever known. Poverty has been reduced. Life expectancy has increased. Wealth has been created at a scale that our ancestors could not have imagined.
However, the news is not all good. In fact, the achievements brought about by globalization are now under threat.
The world has simultaneously benefited from globalization and failed to manage the inherent complications resulting from the increased integration of societies, economies and the infrastructure of modern life. As a result, we have become dangerously exposed to systemic risks that transcend borders.
These threats spill across national boundaries and cross the traditional divides between industries and organizations. An integrated financial system propagates economic crises. International air travel spreads pandemics. Interconnected computers provide rich hunting grounds for cybercriminals. Middle Eastern jihadis use the Internet to recruit young Europeans. Living standards rise — and greenhouse-gas emissions follow, accelerating climate change.
As a byproduct of globalization, crises that once burned locally and then quickly flamed out now risk sparking international conflagrations. A pandemic, flood or cyberattack in the City of London or on Wall Street could send the entire world into a financial tailspin.
If the progress that globalization has delivered is to be sustained, countries must accept shared responsibility for managing the risks that it has engendered. National governments — whether powerful, like the US and China, or weak, like Iraq and Liberia — are unable to address these cascading and complex challenges on their own.
Only a small fraction of the risks arising from globalization require a truly global response. However, by definition, these risks transcend the nation-state; thus, coordinated action is required to address them effectively. The nature of the response needs to be tailored to the threat.
In the case of pandemics, the key is to support countries where outbreaks occur and help those most at risk of infection. Widespread dangers, such as climate change or a new financial crisis, can require the cooperation of dozens of countries and a broad range of institutions. In nearly every case, an international effort is needed.
An important characteristic of the risks of a globalized world is that they often become more serious over time. As a result, the speed at which they are identified, along with the effectiveness of the response, can determine whether an isolated event becomes a global threat. One need only look at the rise of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the outbreak of Ebola, the fight against climate change or the financial contagion of 2008 to see what happens when a danger remains unidentified for too long or a coordinated response is missing or mismanaged.
And yet, just as the need for robust regional and international institutions is at its greatest, support for them is waning. A growing number of citizens in Europe, North America and the Middle East blame globalization for unemployment, rising inequality, pandemics and terrorism. Because of these risks, they regard increased integration, openness and innovation as more of a threat than an opportunity.
This creates a vicious circle. The concerns of the electorate are reflected in rapidly growing support for political parties that advocate increased protectionism, reductions in immigration and greater national control over the marketplace.
As a result, governments across Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania are becoming more parochial in their concerns, starving international agencies and regional organizations of the funding, credibility and leadership capabilities needed to mount a proper response to the challenges of globalization.
In the short term, countries may be able to duck their global responsibilities, but the threat posed by events beyond their borders cannot be kept at bay forever. Unaddressed, the endemic dangers of a globalized world will continue to grow. In confronting dangers such as the Islamic State, Ebola, financial crisis, climate change or rising inequality, short-term political expediency must be overcome — or the entire world will come to regret it.
Ian Goldin is director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford and vice chair of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Toward the end of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) final term in office, there was much talk about his legacy. Ma himself would likely prefer history books to enshrine his achievements in reducing cross-strait tensions. He might see his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 as the high point. However, given his statements in the past few months, he might be remembered more for contributing to the breakup of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We are still talking about Ma and his legacy because it is inextricably tied to the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bedrock of his