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Deglobalization and Its Discontents

If great power rivalries, and how well or poorly they were managed, shaped much of the history of the past few centuries, the current era is more likely to be defined by global challenges and how well or poorly the world addresses them. Above all, that requires avoiding false cures.

NEW YORK – Increasing global interconnection – growing cross-border flows of people, goods, energy, emails, television and radio signals, data, drugs, terrorists, weapons, carbon dioxide, food, dollars, and, of course, viruses (both biological or software) – has been a defining feature of the modern world. The question, though, is whether globalization has peaked – and, if so, whether what follows is to be welcomed or resisted.

To be sure, people and goods have always moved around the world, be it over the high seas or the ancient Silk Road. What is different today is the scale, speed, and variety of these flows. Their consequences are already significant and are becoming more so. If great power rivalries, and how well or poorly they were managed, shaped much of the history of the past few centuries, the current era is more likely to be defined by global challenges and how well or poorly the world addresses them.

Globalization has been driven by modern technology, from jet planes and satellites to the Internet, as well as by policies that opened up markets to trade and investment. Both stability and instability have promoted it, the former by enabling business and tourism, and the latter by fueling flows of migrants and refugees. For the most part, governments viewed globalization as a net benefit and were generally content to let it run its course.

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