Milestones in the History of Globalization*
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
David Bowie (1947-2016).
Musician, songwriter, actor, genius.
Appendix One Highlights
The list of significant globalization milestones provided in the table below is broadly chronological. However, history rarely plays out linearly, as I have discussed frequently throughout the pages of Ten Years.
Major events often have limited lasting impact, e.g. the ‘Great Exhibition’ of 1851, while apparently minor events have huge ramifications. The latter was spectacularly demonstrated when a single moment-in-time, the assassination of Austria’s Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in tiny Sarajevo, led to the global conflagration known as The Great War. Similarly, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941, famously described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy”, enticed the previously neutral USA to enter World War II and changed the course of history in previously unimaginable ways.
When starting the first edition of Ten Years 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 the manuscript’s submission later in the year, the two shared an emerging bromance and planned a lovefest in Singapore.
While writing the book’s second edition, Covid-19 and its ever-expanding mutations and variations wreaked havoc throughout the world economy. Its implications for the long march of globalization will not be fully understood for many years, if not decades, to come.
The image below illustrates the rationale behind the phrase ‘long march’ as I use it throughout Ten Years to describe the path of globalization. The bright light at the end of the milestone-lined road does not suggest that the direction of travel is universally agreed upon. Nor does it present a deterministic historical journey. It will lead somewhere, but where it goes, nobody knows: Shangri-La? Or Armageddon?
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 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.
Writers on globalization dynamics come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, and there is a broad spectrum of opinion along the optimistic (Shangri-La) to pessimistic (Armageddon) range regarding likely outcomes. But a strong consensus exists relating to the role of communications as a catalyst and/or accelerator/retardent of globalization’s progress.
This is particularly true in economics and geopolitics, disciplines that feature heavily in Ten Years. In the ‘Milestones’ table presented below, I separate significant ‘Step-change Communications’ events and processes from the rest and highlight them at the end of each time period within which they most readily fit.
* The table of globalization milestones that follows is made up of several samples drawn from the complete
listing featured in Egan, C. (2021), Ten Years That Shook the (capitalist) World: 1988-1998 (2e). With
permission, © colin edward egan, 2021.
The Globalization Milestones
|In 1991 hikers in the Austrian Ötztal Alps discovered a mummified body protruding from a melting glacier. Archaeologists dated the frozen remains at 5,300 years old and gave him the nickname Ötzi, ‘the Iceman’. They were able to demonstrate that he was travelling between two locations, contending 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 First 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:
· ‘Invisible Hand’ of the market (allocation of scarce resources).
· Consumer sovereignty (the customer is king).
· Theory of Absolute Advantage.
· Birth of classical economics.
· A proponent of liberalism.
|1800s – 1914||1817: David Ricardo publishes On the Principles of Political Economy: And Taxation:
· Theory of Comparative Advantage.
· Campaigning for free trade intensifies.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:
Early 1900s: Step-change Communications:
|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’:
· International Monetary Fund (IMF).
· General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT).
· The World Bank.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, air bases in Japan etc.).
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.
|1979 – 1980||1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes PM in the UK.
1980: Ronald Reagan elected 40th President of USA, inaugurated 20 January 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.
10 March 1985: Michael Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Enacts policies of glasnost (openness/political freedom) and perestroika (restructuring/economic reform).
1989: Tiananmen Square: student protests quashed by Deng’s orders and PLA ‘June Fourth Incident’. Question mark hangs over China’s economic reforms.
|1990s||Berlin Wall falls / Comecon collapses. USSR dissolves. Cold War (round one) ends.
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.
dot.com ‘economy’ emerges.
|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’.
|April 27 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?|
A broadly chronological list like this could never be fully comprehensive unless presented with a different scope or redefined with a narrative presented in book form.
Over many decades there have been multiple interruptions to the smooth progression of globalization. Despite this, 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.
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