What went wrong with globalization?
Published 09 May 2023
The global order has moved from an unipolar leadership to a multipolar rivalry characterized by Great Power competition. The circumstances which helped facilitate the deepening of international economic engagement since the late 20th century are now in reverse.
From the collapse of the Berlin Wall to the global financial crisis, the world economy experienced a period of rapid expansion, greater inclusiveness, and an unparalleled level of interconnectedness. It did so against a backdrop of unchallenged US economic hegemony, a high level of trust in multilateral organizations, a distinct lack of Great Power competition, and a distinct delineation between commerce and politics.
Each of those four pillars of globalization, however, was always likely to prove ephemeral. Resentment over the US' disproportional concentration of power eventually spread, just as China's non-market state capitalism propelled it to become the world's largest trading nation. Many of the multilateral institutions that oversaw the globalization process seized to function in an environment of intense geopolitical rivalry. Furthermore, widening social inequality and climate-related concerns have evoked frustration towards the current system.
Left unattended, these tensions risk reversing the benefits global trade has produced over the last four decades and a return to trade anarchy. Download this first installment of a series of papers on globalization by Research Fellow Stewart Paterson to understand the movement's rise and undoing.
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