Reflecting on the landscape of globalization

By ZHANG FALIN / 11-23-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Reflecting on Globalization: Theories, Histories, and Prospects

Reflecting on Globalization: Theories, Histories, and Prospects, under the chief editorship of Wang Zhengyi, a Boya Distinguished Professor at Peking University, presents an in-depth reflection on 24 major issues related to globalization, ranging from theoretical thinking and historical reflections on globalization, the experiences of major countries and regions, as well as China’s solutions.

Since the onset of globalization, voices of questioning and criticism have persisted, largely due to globalization producing significant redistributions of global wealth and power. Moreover, globalization has been criticized for the enormous global risks resulting from unprecedented cross-border flows of economic factors, including frequent regional and worldwide financial crises. Prior to 2008, a steady succession of anti-globalization voices and actions could be seen. Although anti-globalization was widely used to generalize all attitudes and actions against globalization, its main motive was to correct shortcomings under the system, not the outright rejection of globalization. 

The outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008 further revealed the risks of a highly integrated and interdependent global economy, as well as worsening power and macroeconomic imbalances among countries, resulting in waves of de-globalization. De-globalization refers to the process of reducing the degree and impact of globalization. This aligns with the underlying logic of such concepts as “de-dollarization,” “de-Westernization,” and “decentralization.” 

Since the Trump administration in the United States, the international order has entered a period of accelerated adjustment. The trend of reverse globalization has become ever more prominent, manifesting in reversing the tendency and direction of globalization, such as impeding free international trade and undermining the multilateral international system.

Anti-globalization, de-globalization, and reverse globalization are closely related, sharing vague conceptual boundaries and overlapping connotations, and without strict time sequences. However, the three concepts are underlain with different basic stances and core logic. Anti-globalization in the narrow sense is against the disadvantages of globalization and has the intention of correction. De-globalization is to reduce the degree of globalization, which means weakening. Reverse globalization tends to reverse the trend and direction of globalization, implying retrogression. 

At the same time, there is also a force of re-globalization that defends globalization, and seeks to pull it back on track, and even provide it with new impetus and new connotation. These four forces are intertwined, together constituting the current complex globalization landscape.  

Zhang Falin is a professor from the Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University.