Is globalization a fundamentally destructive process? Does it wreak havoc on the environment, destroy ancient civilizations, and create greater inequalities while enriching a small handful of elites? Or does it provide new opportunities for countless millions, helping to lift them out of poverty? For those of us who study China, the answer is obviously all of the above. And yet there are those who believe that globalization, if managed responsibly and ethically, with close attention to its social and environmental consequences, can be a far more benevolent process. One of those people is my friend, Devin Stewart. I got to know Devin during a few forays to Tokyo, where he was working as a journalist. He eventually moved back to his hometown of Washington D.C. to take a fellowship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. He is now Director of the Global Policy Innovations program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and runs a blogsite called Fairer Globalization dedicated to issues surrounding the ethics of globalization. Devin recently returned from a tour of Asia, where he studied the process of integration that is ongoing, focusing on the role of ASEAN. He has many interesting insights on his blog on the current bid by Asian societies to integrate and to create a more sustained and ethical globalization process. I recommend his site and his institute to all who are interested in how we can promote a better world for the 21st century.
Yet I remain skeptical that such a world can be created, given the great destructive potential of two our energy-grubbing world powers, China and the United States. The precarious situations in the Middle East and Africa, not to mention our wars in Central Asia, are largely the result of the unfettered grab for natural resources that has been going on since the 1500s. In a class I teach on world history, we examine how the world got to its present stage through a European-led bid to conquer and colonize the world, spurred on by the advanced technologies that the Mongols brought to Europe during their own bloody conquest of the 13th century. China is now entering a phase of active international trade and politics, and has a great economic and political influence on African nations. It remains to be seen whether or not this intervention will be benevolent or bloody, but the events in Darfur since 2003 are not a good sign.
I would like to invite Devin to join this conversation and post some of his insights as to what's going on in the world today, and as usual, the comments are open to any interested participants in what ought to be a global discussion about the effects of globalization.