Globalization Is Not A Done Deal

In "Why the global economy is here to stay" (Economic Viewpoint, Mar. 23), Jeffrey E. Garten oversimplifies matters when he argues that because today, globalization is being driven by the first truly global companies, it is somehow irreversible. In 1914 and again in the 1930s, globalization foundered on the twin rocks of economic exclusion and nationalism. It is not difficult to detect, in the recent diatribes of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a resurgence of the historical resentment felt by the "poor East" toward the "rich West."

Furthermore, it is by no means clear whether China will emerge in the next century as a benign force in global affairs. What would happen if China, in, say, 2014 or 2039--like Germany in 1914 and 1939--were to seek out "its own place in the sun"? Finally, in the West, the protectionist tendencies of many politicians and business people could yet spoil the party; the U.S. Congress has already succeeded in postponing the expansion of NAFTA to include Chile.

Globalization is as vulnerable today as it was in 1914 and the 1930s. If it is to succeed and truly take root, it requires constant vigilance and commitment by all interested parties--governments, corporations, and academia alike. Blind optimism of the kind displayed by Jeffrey Garten is not only unwarranted but dangerous.

Stavros Yiannouka


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