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Globalization’s Warring Narratives

Deepening disagreements over whether globalization is "good" or “bad” make managing the phenomenon much more difficult. The new Sino-American "decoupling" should be understood as a part of this broader analytical breakdown.

WARSAW – Globalization brings the world together through the movement of people, things, ideas, money, and much else. But talk of globalization has become increasingly divisive, with competing assessments of the process now splitting the globalized world itself.

While middle-income countries – emerging markets – remain gung-ho about tapping into global markets and globalization-driven dynamism, and while many low-income countries see opportunities to leapfrog to greater prosperity with new technologies, the rich world is generally unhappy with the state of things. In mature industrial societies like the United States, the very idea of globalization is met with suspicion, if not outrage. In keeping with the mood, BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink struck a chord last year when he proclaimed the end of globalization, and politicians across the Western world have been touting “friend-shoring” and other forms of decoupling from China.

Most of these descriptions are new variants of an old mantra: Stop the world – I want to get off. Yet for all its power, the rhetoric about global fragmentation does not correspond to reality. The concept of deglobalization may be everywhere in political speech, but it is not borne out by the statistics. Not only is world trade still expanding, but so, too, is US-China trade. Internet communications and data flows continue to grow exponentially, and, post-pandemic, people are once again moving across borders.

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