Jason Lee/REUTERS Robotic arms collect pre-packaged dishes at a restaurant in Beijing, China, November 2018. 

Globalization 4.0

A New Architecture for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The world today needs a new framework for global cooperation in order to preserve peace and accelerate progress. After the cataclysm of World War II, leaders designed a set of institutional structures to enable the postwar world to trade, collaborate, and avoid war—first in the West and eventually around much of the globe. Faced with a changing world, today’s leaders must undertake such a project again.

This time around, however, the change is not just geopolitical or economic in nature. The Fourth Industrial Revolution—the complete digitization of the social, the political, and the economic—is tugging at the very fabric of society, changing the way that individuals relate to one another and to the world at large. In this era, economies, businesses, communities, and politics are being fundamentally transformed.

Reforming existing processes and institutions will not be enough. Government leaders, supported by civil society and businesses, have to collectively create a new global architecture. If they wait, or simply apply a “quick fix” to repair the deficiencies of outdated systems, the forces of change will naturally develop their own momentum and rules, and thus limit our ability to shape a positive outcome.

THE PARADOXES OF PROGRESS

In the decades after 1945, the world’s economies underwent an ambitious process of integration. Western Europe led the charge, charting unprecedented growth rates as it aimed for an “ever closer union.” Japan and the “Asian Tigers” followed, gaining access to global markets and supersizing their economies. By the early 2000s, the BRICs economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—had spurred international trade to levels previously unseen; exports now count for about one-fifth of global GDP—the highest level in history. Throughout, the United States played a leading role, setting up the institutional structures that underpinned the global system, securing trade routes, and pumping wealth into foreign markets.

Today, this megaengine of globalization seems to be slowing down. As a percentage of GDP, trade is no longer rising. Worse still, the free-market consensus is unraveling.

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