OUR GLOBAL VILL AGE:
Prospects for Globalization and National Borders
Q I N G G U O J I A , ASSOCIATE DEAN & PROFESSOR OF THE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, PEKING UNIVERSIT Y
A S T H E W O R L D B E G I N S A N E W C E N T U R Y, some aspects of international politics are experiencing rapid changes amidst other more rigid aspects which refuse change. Two concepts may best capture the nature and scope of this simultaneous static yet fluid state: namely, globalization and national borders. Globalization is currently a fashionable topic—some laud it, claiming that it is the path to peace, prosperity and progress. Others abhor it, attributing to it many evils in world affairs including polarization, environmental destruction, cultural degradation, and so forth. The showdown surrounding the WTO gathering in Seattle last November highlights the intensity of the conflict. In contrast to globalization, the concept of national borders gets less and less attention. Technological progress, especially the Internet, has brought people closer together. International and domestic concerns are becoming increasingly intertwined. Under these circumstances, national borders have lost their previous significance and national sovereignty is becoming both anachronistic and a less valid excuse for idiosyncratic rule within national borders. Such a view is premised upon the assumption that we are indeed in an age of comprehensive globalization. Close examination of the assumption, however, reveals that it is a very misleading one. The truth is, the current incarnation is at most a partial and uneven globalization; national borders are as relevant as they have ever been since their formation. Unless we fully appreciate this, our understanding of international politics will remain inadequate.
A TREND OF THE TIMES Proponents of globalization argue that increasing technological innovations in communication and transportation have brought the world closer together economically, socially, and politically. Economically, international trade and economic relations have exploded over the past decades. Commodities, capital, and managerial and technological talents 32 WINTER 2001
flow across national boundaries at an increasingly accelerated pace. In their endless search for efficiency and profits, multinational corporations have been expanding their global production and marketing networks. In order to make use of the opportunities for development outside their borders, national governments have opened their economies one after another to conform with prevailing international free market principles by lowering tariffs, instituting laws to regulate and encourage fair competition, and offering tax incentives to foreign investors. As a result of measure like these being taken around the world, the international economy has never been so integrated and individual nations’ economic practices have never been so similarly uniform. As national economies become more homogeneous and more integrated with the outside world, people are moving across national boundaries in unprecedented numbers and frequency. Tourists, business people, artists, researchers, educators, students, and even bureaucrats are increasingly seeking opportunities outside their home countries; as a result, people from different countries are getting to know each other and exchange views and ideas, often becoming friends and collaborators. The human network is broadening and deepening with the passage of time. Enhanced by international media, people across national boundaries have begun to share similar views, aspirations, and even similar heroes and idols. People are talking about similar topics, dressing according to similar codes, eating similar foods, sharing similar dreams, and protesting against similar evils, as if the world were a single community. Economic interdependence and social integration are also generally accompanied by the spread of democracy....
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