Ian Bremmer

Globalization, like capitalism, is powered by the individual impulses of billions of people. It is not the result of someone’s economic reform plan, and it can’t be reversed by decree.

2 thoughts on “Ian Bremmer

  1. shinichi Post author

    In recent years, we’ve been seduced by an argument thatgoes something like this: It isn’t simply the Berlin Wall that has fallen; globalization’s relentless progress is ripping down all kinds of walls. All that movement across borderswill eventually strip nation-states of their power, because governments will never be able to manage the international commercial, political, social, and environmental challengesthat globalization creates. Even the governments of theworld’s most reclusive states can’t lock their citizens away forever. If cell phones from China are now flowing into North Korea, what hope does any despot have of ever again fullyisolating his people from the world or from one another?

    According to the theory, it’s not just the world’s most brittleregimes that won’t be able to respond effectively to changes wrought by globalization. Even the governments of the world’s wealthy democracies won’t be up to the task.The accelerating, round-the-clock, cross-border flow of information, people, products, and cash can only really be regulated on a regional (or even a global) scale. Whengovernments gather to agree on new rules to regulate all this activity, they will have to accept changes that compromise their sovereignty. How can China’s leaders create economic growth without opening their once-isolated country to the power of the Internet? How can French legislators maintain rigid labor laws when workersfrom less prosperous corners of the European Union are free to enter the country and compete for jobs? Will America still be America when other countries own key U.S. assets and entire U.S. industries are outsourced to Asia and Africa? This cross-border traffic will undermine the integrity of the state in all kinds of ways. That’s the theory. But advances in communications technology have not yet proven their ability to topple dictatorships. Sometime during 2009, the number of Chinese citizens online (more than 300 million) surpassed the total population of theUnited States. The Chinese government has so far kept technological pace via its “Great Firewall,” the system of filters and rerouters that restricts access to information onTaiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen Square, and other forbidden subjects. Foreign visitors to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 found a degree of online freedom unknown for mostChinese—though a lifting of many restrictions proved temporary. But when protests gripped Tibet in 2008 and race riots erupted between Muslim Uighurs and HanChinese in Xinjiang province in 2009, the government quickly and efficiently restricted the flow of information into and out of the affected areas. In Iran in 2009, Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging helped shape our opinions of the Islamic Republic’s politics—but they did not change theoutcome of its presidential election. For the moment atleast, authoritarian governments have proven up to the challenge of restricting online speech. Furthermore, new communications technologies are not inherently pro democracy. They’re simply a kind of force multiplier for messaging. If grassroots nationalism, fed by state propaganda, was a powerful force shaping public opinionin China or Russia before millions first logged on, theInternet will promote an unprecedented number of nationalist messages. Unless and until there is widespread,public demand for democracy, these new tools will simplybe used for other purposes.

    A wide variety of analysts, scholars, and authors warned that as a result of all this global traffic, national governments would eventually lose much of their decision-making power to organizations large and small. They would surrender sovereignty to supranational political institutions like theUnited Nations, European Union, International CriminalCourt, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank,organizations that are not states, not sovereign, and notdirectly accountable to local voters.

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