Milestones in the History of Globalization
The list of key events provided in the table which follows is broadly chronological but, as we discussed elsewhere, history rarely plays out in a linear fashion as was demonstrated when a single event, the assassination of Austria’s Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in tiny Sarajevo, led to the global conflagration known as The Great War. While writing Outside Fortress Europe in early 2018 nuclear Armageddon seemed on the cards as Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, brandished his bombs and US President Donald Trump bragged about the size of his buttons and warned of “Fire and Fury”. By the time of this book’s manuscript submission, the two were sharing an emerging bromance and planning a lovefest in Singapore.
Any list such as this is defined as much by what it leaves out as what it includes, and this Globalization Milestones compilation is no exception. The prime selection criterion used for which events should be included was the global impact made, either in the short or long term. Purely local events were not included but that is not to say they were unimportant, especially for those constituents and stakeholders affected. Apologies in advance for any offence associated with missing significant dates, events and historical processes.
|In 1991 hikers in the Austrian Ötztal Alps discovered a mummified body protruding from a melting glacier. Archaeologists dated the frozen remains as being 5,300 years old and gave him the nickname Ötzi, ‘the Iceman’. They were able to demonstrate that he was travelling between two locations and to contend with confidence that he was moving with the purpose of exchanging goods, one community to another. International trade, if not born, or ‘free’ (who knows?), is proven.|
|1700s||The industrial revolution begins; Mid-18th Century: Great Britain.
Empire building and colonisation.
European mercantilism dominates world trade.
|1776||Adam Smith publishes An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
|1800s-1919||1817: David Ricardo publishes On the Principles of Political Economy: And Taxation:
1840s: ‘Golden Era’, 2nd phase of the industrial revolution; railway boom financed by the creation of equity (stock) markets.
1843: The Economist magazine is launched to lobby for liberal democracy and free trade.
1846: UK Corn Laws repealed: free trade; the ascendancy of business over aristocracy.
1851: The Great Exhibition, Crystal Palace; the height of Britain’s global industrial and military strength.
1868: Meiji Restoration; Japan ‘opens its doors’ to international trade.
Gas, oil, electricity etc…
The Wright Brothers fly; early flight machines built.
Late 1800s: Step-change Communications: Technology breakthroughs: steamships/ocean-bed cables laid/telegraph/telephone.
Early 1900s: Step-change Communications: Internal combustion engine refined and Henry Ford creates automobile mass manufacturing processes; luxury cruise liners (plus freight) expand, especially transatlantic routes linking the Americas with Europe; aircraft manufacture scaled-up and output accelerate as the war unfolds.
|1914-1918||The Great War.|
|1917-1920||1917: ‘Ten days that shook the world’: The Russian Revolution.
1919: Treaty of Versailles; John Maynard Keynes publishes The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
Step-Change Communications: Internal combustion engine mass-produced.
|1920s / 1930s||Hyper-inflation in Germany; social unrest etc.
The Great Gatsby: America parties.
Rise of fascist tendency in Europe:
The party’s over: The Wall St. Crash.
The Great Depression.
Nationalism/protectionism emerges worldwide.
1993: John Maynard Keynes publishes The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
Keynesian macro-economic management principles are dominant.
Step-change Communications: American Interstate Highway system.
Step-change Communications: Luxury commercial air travel.
Step-change Communications: Early development of RADAR.
|1939-1945||The Second World War.|
|1944-1949||1944: Bretton Woods Conference, USA: John Maynard Keynes returns. Keynes and Harry Dexter White lead the charge: blueprints agreed for ‘A New World Order’:
1949: Chinese Communists rebel against Kuomintang (KMT); Mao Zedong ascends in mainland China (People’s Republic of China, PRC); KMT under Chiang Kai-shek retreat to Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC).
|1950s / 1960s||US Wealthy.
1950-1953: Korean War; South Korea protected by the USA.
China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’; huge backwards step.
Two-front Cold War: The Russian Bear (NATO protects); The Chinese Panda (huge USA military presence in and around South Korea).
Colonisation, empire and mercantilism unravel (e.g. UK in India, France in north Africa).
1951: Treaty of Paris. France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) establish the European Coal and Steel Community and lay down the foundations for the European Union.
1957: Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC).
1960: OPEC Created: Sovereign state (‘legitimate’) cartel formed.
South Korean market protected from international trade; giant chaebol conglomerates created: Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, Lucky Goldstar (LG) etc. export at marginal cost prices.
Step-change Communications: Containerization: American transport entrepreneur Malcolm Purcell McLean introduces the intermodal (rail/road/sea) shipping container which revolutionises freight transportation and the logistics of international trade. He was persuaded to give patented designs to industry, bringing standardisation of shipping containers, improved reliability, reduced cargo theft, lower inventory costs, shortened transit times.
Step-change Communications: Commercial jet airline and global airport infrastructure developed.
Step-change Communications: IBM develops commercially viable mainframe computers and supporting software and services.
|1970s||Gold standard ends; paper (and nickel) triumph.
World Bank rule-change seeds African debt crisis.
April 1971: ‘ping-pong diplomacy’: an American table tennis team playing a tournament in Japan invited to visit PRC for ‘friendly’ matches.
October 1971: UN Assembly votes resolution to “expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek (ROC – Taiwan) from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all organizations related to it”. Mao’s PRC becomes “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations”.
Panda diplomacy: President Richard Nixon (with Henry Kissinger) visits China in February 1972 and is gifted two pandas (Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing); China seems keen to establish diplomatic relations with the US and its allies, e.g. Japan. Not great news for Taiwan.
6-25 October 1973: Yom Kippur War: Arab-Israeli Conflict, a coalition of Arab states (led by Egypt and Syria) against Israel.
OPEC flexes muscle: quadrupling of the oil price – twice in 5 Years: 1974 / 1979.
9 September 1976: Mao Zedong (the Great Helmsman) dies.
Global recession and stagflation (high inflation/low growth/high unemployment) predominant.
Post-panda Taiwan: ‘export-or-die’ mentality drives its trade ambitions.
Government capital controls lifted worldwide, globalizing free-market theories and nation-state economic policies.
|1979-1980||1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes PM in the UK.
1980: Ronald Reagan elected 40th President of USA; inaugurated January 20th, 1981.
1979/1980: Milton Friedman (with wife, Rose) publishes Free to Choose: A Personal Statement: neo-classical economics; principles of monetarism; a blueprint for macro-economic management; dominant economic philosophy to the present day.
|1980s||Deregulation of global financial markets (e.g. Big Bang, UK, 1987).
Privatisation in the UK.
Privatisation in France.
China under Deng Xiaoping: ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’; ‘one country, two systems’; market liberalization, FDI allowed and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) created along the east coast and south-east Guangdong province.
1989: Tiananmen Square: student protests quashed by Deng’s orders; question-mark hangs over China’s economic reforms.
Step-change Communications: Apple launch Macintosh personal computer in the late 1970s; feeling threatened, IBM launch initiative ‘PC in a Year’; partners with Intel, Microsoft; presents open systems architecture, fostering IBM-compatibles (e.g. Compaq) and ‘clones’ (‘Made in Taiwan’).
Step-change Communications: ‘Natural monopoly’ status of national telecommunications infrastructure dissolves; AT&T (Ma Bell) broken up in the US in 1984, Baby-Bells are born; privatisation of BT in UK, 1984; scene set for further privatisations, direct competition (e.g. Cable & Wireless in the UK) and nascent cellular infrastructure developed.
Step-change Communications: Rapid development of distributed networked computing: Local Area Networks (LANs); Wide Area Networks (WANs), laying foundations for www revolution which follows.
|1990s||Mikhail Gorbachev becomes president of the Soviet Union; enacts policies of glasnost (openness/political freedom) and perestroika (restructuring/economic reform); USSR crumbles; Cold War comes to an end.
Berlin Wall falls / Comecon collapses.
3 October 1990: German reunification (German Unity): A process culminating in the German Democratic Republic (‘East Germany’) and the Federal Republic of Germany (‘West Germany’) forming the reunited nation of Germany. Berlin comes together as a single city and regains status as the German capital. Deng reaffirms China’s economic reform program in ‘Southern Tour’.
7 February 1992: Maastricht Treaty (Treaty on European Union) signed by the twelve member states of the European Community.
16 September 1992: George Soros versus Bank of England: Soros wins.
1 January 1993: European Single Market established.
1 January 1994: North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created.
1 January 1995: World Trade Organization (WTO) replaces GATT as the independent regulator of global commerce; India joins.
Privatisation in Russia: the return of the oligarchs.
Privatisation in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.
Japan: ‘The Lost Decade’ – failure of bank regulation and asset management is the core problem.
1 July 1997: Hong Kong ‘Handed Over’ to China.
George Soros versus Bank of Thailand: Soros wins; Asian financial meltdown (The ‘Asian financial crisis’); Russian Federation defaults.
Genius fails: Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) collapses but no one notices (except author Roger Lowenstein, who exposes the scandal).
1 January 1999: ‘virtual’ European monetary union and Euro launched.
.com ‘economy’ emerges.
Step-change Communications: Global Positioning System (GPS), started by (and under control of) US Military in 1973 becomes fully operational and accessible in 1995.
Step-change Communications: Cisco Systems develop mass-market internet infrastructure networks.
Step-change Communications: Tim Berners Lee (not Al Gore) ‘invents’ the internet: he creates HTML and integrates internet protocols at CERN laboratories, Switzerland.
Step-change Communications: Windows ’95 and rapid WWW global expansion.
Step-change Communications: Open skies deregulation and rise of the low-cost airline industry.
Step-change Communications: Rapid development of fibre-optic telecommunications networks in ‘developed’ countries.
|The 2000s||The dot.com ‘economy’ falters, but its global infrastructure is installed.
11 December 2001: China joins WTO.
India accelerates market liberalisation.
9/11: George W Bush begs the US public to shop at thanksgiving, November 2001 (consumer confidence drives economies and growth).
1 January 2002: Euro goes tangible; notes and coins distributed in Eurozone economies.
Emerging markets – emerge! Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRICs) etc.
2007/2008: Global financial markets convulse.
Ireland and southern European countries face financial meltdown: Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain (the PIGSs etc.); Italy on the brink.
Germany prospers, builds huge trade surpluses.
China rides the economic storm.
Step-change Communications: Household penetration of broadband expands rapidly, creating global communications infrastructure.
Step-change Communications: 3rd and 4th generation cellular infrastructure developed.
Step-change Communications: Widespread adoption of cellular technology in emerging markets.
|2010 – present||22 August 2012: Russian Federation joins WTO.
18 March 2014: Russian Federation annexes Crimea; dropped from G8.
23 June 2016: the British public votes with a small majority (but large turnout) to leave the European Union; Brexit negotiations begin.
8 November 2016: Donald Trump elected 45th President of the United States of America; electoral platform included ‘Make America Great Again’ and hinted strongly at protectionism and trade wars.
20 January 2017: Donald Trump presidential inauguration.
29 March 2017: Teresa May signs letter to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union; letter hand-delivered by two civil servants travelling business class to Brussels on Eurostar. Cost of tickets? £985.50p.
8 March 2018: Donald Trump announces punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, citing ‘national security’ to bypass WTO rules.
Brexit processes meander.
China launches ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI). Xi Jinping’s ‘project of the century’.
Step-change Communications: iPhone and Android drive smartphone revolution. Social media and social networks develop, e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tencent, TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp. Chinese giant Baidu has 2bn active users worldwide.
Step-change Communications: ‘Big Data’ and ‘Cloud’ computing creates impact.
Step-change Communications: ‘Virtual’ global marketplaces created by Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Facebook, Google. The smallest of small firms can now access global markets.
Step-change Communications: 5th generation cellular technology in development.
|27 April 2018||Korea Summit: Moon Jae-in (down-South) and Kim Jong Un (up-North) get friendly, crisscrossing ‘no man’s land’ into each other’s DMZ trenches: end-of-war or silent night?|
|1 May 2018||Outside Fortress Europe: Strategies for the Global Market manuscript submitted for publication: what next?|
To be continued…
A broadly chronological list such as this could never be fully comprehensive unless it was presented with a different scope or was redefined with narrative and presented in book form. For sure there have been interruptions to the smooth progression of globalization but, by taking a long-term historical perspective, it is possible to recognise that the forces driving it forward have far outweighed those working against it, whether these be G7 and WTO anti-capitalist protest movements or two World Wars. Or Brexit.
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All content © Colin Edward Egan, 2021