BY CHENG YAWEN
In recent years, a rising number of people have realized “the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century.” It was more pronounced in 2018. Some phenomena that people are familiar with are changing direction. The head winds globalization is facing is one example.
Implied meanings of certain words describing key concepts are going the opposite way. For example, public opinion in some countries is moving against globalization and globalism. Why does this happen?
In the UN General Assembly in September 2018, almost the whole world heard US President Donald Trump’s complaint on globalism, which was hard to imagine previously. Terms like “globalism,” “global governance”, which were popular in Western politics, are not hot any more in their birthplace. Is this a time to abandon globalism?
It is expected that “globalization,” “globalism” and “global governance” will see a winter prior to their revival. Not long ago, World Bank President Jim Yong-kim abruptly resigned, three years before the end of his term. The reason was said to be Trump’s dislike for the World Bank and his belief that the international lender is wasting US’ wealth. In the near future, Washington may not offer financial assistance to the World Bank and quit the organization. The World Bank is a multilateral institution which was established under US leadership, and guided by the US Treasury Department. Its heads have traditionally been appointed by the US government. The World Bank reflected US global strength and was a key instrument for Washington’s global governance, and increasing its influence as a soft power. However, currently Washington seems to demolish the structure it built itself by exiting international organizations that signal globalism.
Based on the experiences of the late 20th century, there are several drawbacks of globalism and globalization.
First, globalization enables strong nations to consolidate their dominance and lead the international order. It is an instrument that induces weaker states to obey the will of the stronger ones. Globalism is keen on promoting universal values, taking the moral high ground, blaming countries whose actions do not accord with universal values and even intervening militarily in some nations. What does international intervention bring to global politics? It can be explained by hot button issues in Eurasia.
Second, out of expectations of politicians from powerful countries, who claim their nations represent public interest, globalism is becoming a tool in the fight between capitalist forces and national will. As a result, state power is eroded by capital, leading to alienation and political strains in some countries.
It is believed that some countries cannot bear the negative effects of globalization. The main reason for this is that capital is equipped with increasingly powerful characteristics that weaken nations’ capability to control their capital and eliminates sovereign states’ ability to embody the will of the people.
The hit on state power by capital not only leads to financial chaos, triggering financial and economic crises, but can also generate social and political woes. Western countries’ easing financial regulations resulted in the 2008 financial crisis. In recent years, developed countries are experiencing increasing economic and political challenges, which actually are extensions of the 2008 financial crisis. Some of them are yet to be addressed.
Economic liberalization faces challenges in the developed and developing world.
The actual reason for flaws in practice is that globalism needs unified global political will, which is difficult to find amid large sovereign nations. Hence, there is a huge gap between ideal globalism and its practice. Sovereign states should try to spare room for globalism. Globalization is required by people and cannot be reversed at will. On the other hand, globalization has to take into account the political reality of mass sovereign countries. The goals and agenda need to be limited within the flexible boundary of sovereign nations. Otherwise, it would disrupt some countries’ political and economic setup, breeding social antagonism.
In the era of exacerbating confusion, globalization may be not as appealing as before, but it is undesirable to discard globalism, which has boosted the development of global economy and fought common problems. In a highly connected and almost irreversible world, simply retreating to nationalism will generate nothing but disaster. We can hold a selective attitude toward globalization. The part of judging from the perspective of strong nations’ interests and submitting to capital is not advisable. The globalization we desire is to serve the interest of all people and match the political system of sovereign countries. On the whole, what we need is a revised globalization.
(The author is a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Shanghai International Studies University. [email protected])