Globalization Has a Long History
- International Development
Edited transcript of Nayan Chanda's lunchtime presentation to SSRC staff. [30 April 2007]
Mary McDonnell: Nayan Chanda has graciously agreed to join us today. He is an accomplished author, journalist, editor, and cofounder of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Nayan is also on our Abe Fellowship Program Committee. He will talk about some of the issues that we are facing as a country and a world today, which he describes so well in his new book, Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization.
Nayan Chanda: Thank you very much. My interest in globalization began in 1999 when I was preparing the issues for the millennium edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review. I started by asking: Instead of making all sorts of predictions as to what the new millennium would bring, why not look at the past? If we looked at each year since January 1st, 1000, we could see how Asia has changed from then until January 1st, 2000. Of course, the first roadblock I ran into was that there was no January 1st, 1000, because the Gregorian calendar didn't exist at the time. But we could work back and calculate the day.
I began to realize that so many things that we take for granted as Asian were not yet there, starting with spicy food with chili peppers. Portuguese and Spanish traders introduced chili to Asia, which they'd brought in from Mexico, and within a hundred years chili spread throughout Asia. Asian nations began to think of chili as their God-given ingredient. They forgot that it had been brought by foreigners.
China is the world's biggest smoking nation, but there was no smoke in 1000, no tobacco, which was also introduced by the Spaniards. Nor were there corn or potatoes, the introduction of which allowed the Chinese population to double in over eighty years. Up until that time, the population had been growing very slowly for lack of land surface to grow rice. But only when sweet potatoes, corn and peanuts were brought in by Spanish traders from Manila did China's food supply -- and likewise, its population -- shoot up. Many things that we see now in China and the Asian world are a result of exposure to the outside world.
So that's how I came to look at globalization.
The term "globalization" was first used in a Western dictionary in 1961. But the phenomenon that I see and describe -- the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of this world, leading to a global awareness that we are connected and that we share this earth and its environment together -- has grown only in the last 50 or 60 years because of the speed with which transactions take place.
In the past, communications were slow and totally dependent on humans moving from Place A to Place B and carrying information. The Mongols took a big step forward by utilizing carrier pigeons to fly and carry messages, but that kind of communication was limited to overland surfaces.
The maximum speed of travel by water was 20 knots an hour -- and that was driven by wind -- so the speed of transport and communication was limited. The world was greatly segmented as a result.
When the Turks took over Constantinople in 1453, the world got the information six weeks later. That shows you just how difficult transportation and communication was in 1500.
Now with increasing speed, improved transport, and as a result increasing visibility, the word "globalization" has entered our imagination and our collective sense of fear. We see the good consequences, but most often the bad. Globalization has become a very controversial word. People who are doing bad things are the globalizers. Multinationals are doing it; bad people like drug smugglers and traffickers in persons are doing it. But if you look carefully, we are all doing it, because we consume products from multiple origins. Our consumption leads to demand to produce things, which in turn leads to the supply chain production system.
In my book, I describe the four principle actors of globalization:
1) Traders: people who wanted to make a profit. Traders went from Place A to Place B, bought cheap and sold dear. This pattern has persisted since time immemorial. I read some translations of 4,000-year-old clay tablets from Mesopotamia in the Yale Library. A trader's wife was writing to her husband, saying, our neighbor has built a big house, double the size of ours. When can you make ours as big? The trader's wife writes this on a clay tablet and sends it off to her husband, some 800 miles away. So we see that the motivation hasn't changed. The only difference is that back then, the trader rode a donkey for several weeks to carry his cotton and silver, and now we have 63,000 multinationals using containers ships to carry their products. So the scale is different, but the motivations and the actions are the same.
2) Preachers: people found God and wanted to convert their fellow human beings in other parts of the world. Preachers set out and traveled across deserts and mountains and oceans to convert people. In the process, they connected the world, and exchanged products and ideas that are used in everyday life. For example, Californian wine was introduced by a Spanish friar who settled the San Diego mission. He couldn't have communion without wine, so he set up a plantation of grapes, now known as mission grapes. Wherever Christian missionaries went, they planted grapes whenever possible, so wine is now in South Africa and Australia and beyond. Today, Human Rights Watch and Greenpeace are preachers of another sort. They want to convert people to their kind of moral good life. In the process, they are also connecting the world.
3) Adventurers: people who are curious to find out what's behind the next mountain, the next river. Adventurers return with this information, which in turn allows traders, preachers and soldiers to travel to these places. We see this phenomenon from Marco Polo to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveler who can be called the world's first tourist. He traveled 60,000 miles just to see places, and the account he left behind is phenomenally rich in information. Although David Livingstone was a missionary and went to Africa to preach, his success was rather limited. He converted a total of two people, one of whom actually abandoned Christianity because he found the rigors of marital fidelity too hard. So Livingstone was left with only one convert. He discovered areas of Africa that no one had seen before. His reporting on geographical conditions and social conditions like slavery helped to mobilize public opinion and led to the abolition of slavery by the British.
4) Warriors: people who desire to control larger space, resources, and human beings -- a desire that has been with us since the beginning of history. The first emperor in the world was Sargon of Akkad in Mesopotamia. He attacked places to capture areas where timber could be produced, where tea could be had. He also established the first empire in Mesopotamia. Since then, we have had Alexander the Great, who commanded the biggest land empire on earth: the Mongol empire, stretching from the South China Sea to the Caspian Sea. It acted as a huge conveyor belt to transfer goods and ideas from China to Asia, India and Europe. That empire ultimately brought the world closer together. One of the interesting examples of the transfer that took place as a result of the Mongols is the British attack on Washington, D.C., in 1814. The British used Congreve rockets, which burned down the White House. This is the only time that America had been attacked on its land before 9/11. The rocket was produced by William Congreve, who engineered rockets that the British had captured from Tipu Sultan, a Muslim ruler of the South Indian kingdom of Mysore, in 1792. This Muslim ruler of a largely Hindu domain produced the first rocket and canon based on his studies of Chinese technology and gunpowder and of Spartan metallurgy. Tipu Sultan ultimately developed a rocket that would fly about 1.5 kilometers. The British were absolutely terrified when he first used this against them. But eventually they got the better of him, captured 60 of his unused rockets, and brought them to London.
So there you have the thesis of my book, which provides these and more stories about the four actors in globalization and how they brought us many of the products that we know today.
Has your idea of globalization changed quantitatively and qualitatively over time with changes in immigration?
I include immigrants as adventurers because they are venturing away from their homes, taking risks to make a better life somewhere else. They have been a major force of historical change. The United States is one of the biggest products of globalization we have ever seen. The country we know today was shaped first by the arrival of the Europeans, then by the arrival of the slaves -- 12 million slaves from Africa were brought to North and South America -- and finally by all the migrants: some 60 million people left their homes in the late 19th century for the United States. The quantitative change over time is very clear. The qualitative change has come with both the increasing volume and increased communication.
We see another example with the British. When they arrived in India, they intended to spend the rest of their lives there as officials or civil servants. Then the opening of the Suez Canal made it possible to go from India to Britain in three months at the most. The British, who were earlier marrying Indians, now were able to return to England to marry an Englishwoman, and then come back to India.
Similarly now, with transportation being so much easier and cheaper, migrants are in much better touch with their homeland than before; they are much more connected both culturally and economically. This has had many ramifications, one of the most important of which is the remittances sent by migrants living in Europe and America back to their home countries. Developing country economies are extremely dependent on these remittances. Vietnam, for example, gets 3-5 million dollars from migrants in California. The nature of migration today and its impact is very different.
When you look at U.S. foreign policy with regard to Vietnam and now Iraq, and also humanitarian situations, such as Somalia, we see a general ignorance of history. Likewise with the topic of globalization: Many of the ways it is portrayed in popular media are not based on any historical understanding.
I am not an expert on American society and history, but one element at play here could be the size of the American continent, its enormous power and wealth. This makes people ask, why should I care about somebody else? We are very happy and we are number one. Also, Americans tend to get their news about world affairs from television, where most news is local. Newspaper circulation and readership are continuously dropping. With sparse information on television and declining newspaper readership, how do you expect people to gain a nuanced understanding of world affairs?
Why didn't you include convicts in your four categories of "globalizers"?
You're right, I didn't touch on that at all. We have seen the use of human beings as bartering material right from the beginning, even in the Mesopotamian period 4,000 years ago. One of the objectives of attacking a neighbor was to bring back captives to your town as forced laborers or slaves. Warfare was partly designed to fill the shortage of labor at the time. For instance, the canals you see in Bangkok were dug by Cambodian soldiers, captured and brought back to Thailand as conscripts. And sometimes convicts filled the same function as warriors. Instead of sending troops to deal with the border, we would send convicts. Let them deal with the consequences of the hostility of the neighbor.
I was thinking about the category of traders and the changes that have taken place. I agree that the motivation is continuous. I saw a good example in Vietnam a couple of years ago when I was visiting a shoe factory, which was structured with Vietnamese workers and Chinese (PRC) middle management, but was neither a Vietnamese nor a PRC firm. It was on contract to U.S. labels. Somebody was selling the shoes in the U.S. in a marketing operation, and a Taiwanese firm was the top management. At some level, this type of multinational enterprise is a continuation of the trading function you describe, but on another level, we are now seeing something new: not simply trade between places but the creation of another kind of organization, one that actually does globalization. Do you have thoughts on the rise of the kind of enterprise that transcends the individual trader?
The first multinational in the world was the East India Company in 1600. Their job was to set up factories, offices to gather material to export back to England or sell British products. I agree that this sort of multinational has now been transformed into something much more complex. The CEO of IBM had an article in Foreign Affairs about a year ago in which he said that the new sort of multinational is called the GIC, or globally incorporated company. Your footprint is everywhere, and you are making use of resources, human as well as natural, depending on where you are, instead of using them as a branch office.
"Trader" now means manufacturer. Industrialization now means the production of goods. Do you see this as more or less continuous -- just an ever-increasing scale of economic organization? Or has there been a transformation from trade-driven to production-driven?
Ultimately, it's still trade. You produce it, and then you sell it. The supply chain system that has developed in the last 20 years is the perfection of the process. The whole world is a factory: you produce one thing here and another somewhere else, and another five, 20, 30 companies put it together in yet another place. All of this is done depending on where the market is, where the labor is cheapest, and where the transportation is easiest. Taking all of these factors into account, the result is a world-wide supply chain that aims to achieve the most efficient use of resources all over the world.
Condensed and edited by Mary-Lea Cox.