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John Micklethwait
John Micklethwait

Talking Management

Globalization at the crossroads Add to ...

Karl Moore: This is Karl Moore, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I'm delighted to speak to the editor-in-chief of The Economist, John Micklethwait.

Good morning, John.

John Micklethwait: Good morning.

KM: Welcome to Montreal.

JM: Well, it's great to be back here.

KM: John, you've written about globalization a great deal. You and Adrian [Wooldridge]have a book out on it [ A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization ] Globalization, I've been teaching it for about 15 years, seems to morph off in different directions every so many years. Where do you see globalization going today?

JM: Well, I think it's in a problem, to be honest. As I said earlier, what I see is this process which has brought gigantic wealth and, indeed, happiness to most people around the world. It's not - you know very well - it's not a perfect process. It's a savage, sometimes cruel one, but the basic sum of human happiness increases dramatically because of it. Because globalization is about the way the ideas, people, goods, services cross borders. That's fundamentally what it's about and that is a profoundly, to me, liberal thing.

And anything that gets in the way of that, tends to be bad and, in general - yes globalization does create pain for individual people, I'm not, in any way, trying to deny that - but, overall, the way in which it's able to help societies, particularly the emerging world, to leap ahead, I think that has been one of the great things of our lifetime. And, as I said, it's not just money, it's also ideas. And there is a correlation - I'm not necessarily one [who says]you can link that directly - between economic openness and political openness - I don't think it's a coincidence that, as the world has opened up economically, it has also opened up politically.

If you go to China - I was in China the other day - you know, China is a place where, God knows, it is not as politically free as we want, but as it keeps on opening up economically, on the whole, political freedom is coming in its wake, not nearly as much as we want, but, still, there is a movement in that direction and, I think, in the end it will take it all the way.

KM: A number of years ago, we looked at Moscow and Washington as being the two poles of the world. Do we see a bipolar world of Washington and Beijing? Is that the future?

JM: Well, that is the idea of the G2 [relationship between the United States and China] I think that actually, on the whole, that is an important but slightly dangerous idea. It is important because it seems to be having an effect beyond its actual sort of reality - i.e., that if you look at the actual numbers, the G2, if you had them, would be America and the [European Union] The EU would actually be bigger than America.

It does not work in that way, but I think that it has worked as a concept; both Washington and Beijing have jumped onto bits of it. The danger in that bit to me is that firstly it fixates America more on China. … America feels China much more than other places. If you are No. 1 and there is someone very clearly at No. 2 coming up on your shoulder, you do tend to feel that much more than other places. It has various other issues with China which have nothing to do with economics, which has nothing to do with openness, nothing to do with military power - all quite legitimate, in some ways. These all cloud one side of it.

Within China, I think that the G2 thing also has a sort of danger. You can see it a little bit in its attitude towards America. Each new American president, I think China expects them to do something stupid. It is kind of used to it - there is always going to be a degree of China-bashing when somebody new comes in. What is different I think now is that China feels in power, in part due to its G2 talk, that it is now big enough, it is important enough, that it does not have to take this. Yes, it will take something stupid but it is not going to take the full madness. It is not going to take ultimatums. I think that is the bit which the G2 thing changes. China sees itself more at a level of parity.

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