Globalization ‘Defines the Modern World’

Mauro F. Guillén is director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies. A native of Spain and a management professor at the Wharton School, Guillén has done extensive research on globalization and also serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Multinationals. He spoke with Knowledge@Wharton High School about the power of globalization.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows:

Knowledge@Wharton High School: What is globalization, and why should students be interested in it?

Mauro Guillén: Globalization is a very complex process that encompasses many different subjects – economy, politics, culture, society – and basically puts us into contact with everyone around the world. Students should be interested in it because it is what defines the modern world – every day we are more aware of, and more connected with, other people in other parts of the globe.

KWHS: How do you think globalization has affected the system of education?

Guillén: In a very powerful and clearly defined way. For starters, I think the content that is used in classrooms is more readily available every day thanks to new communication technologies. And also because every day there is more interaction in the world of education, there is more exchange between students and professors from one place to another.

KWHS: What benefits do we receive from globalization? Sometimes students think it can be somewhat harmful. Is this true?

Guillén: Of course. Globalization can carry with it negative consequences, especially for those communities or people or countries that do not adapt well to the change. Globalization can also produce, as we have seen in the last three years, very complicated and complex crises that are called systemic – in other words, they affect various countries at once. What happens in one country has consequences, or ramifications, in other countries and other economies [around] the world.

KWHS: What challenges do students have to face thanks to globalization? Do you think they face more competition?

Guillén: Of course. Look, for example, here in the United States. Before, it was relatively easy to come study here, and now it turns out that anyone in the world can compete for a slot in a university. I think that globalization does create many opportunities, but it also means much more competition. But competition in principle is not necessarily a bad thing. It is also stimulating, and it prompts you to better yourself and transcend your personal boundaries.

KWHS: Do you think social networks such as Facebook or Twitter have a positive impact on globalization?

Guillén: It seems like in general they have a highly beneficial impact, because otherwise people would not use them. There are still people who fear that participation in these social networks could turn into an activity that has to be catered to every minute of every day. But the truth is that you can control – whether you use Facebook or you use Twitter, etc. – up to what point you want to participate and how much information about yourself you want others to see.

KWHS: What can a student age 18 or 22 do to take advantage of globalization?

Guillén: What is most important is to be exposed to globalization. Get to know other places [through] contact with people and reading – not just traveling, but also reading about other countries. [It’s also important] to comprehend what you pointed out earlier – both the opportunities that globalization presents, as well as the problems or challenges that this process involves.

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One thought on “Globalization ‘Defines the Modern World’

  1. Indeed, globalization is part of the basis of the modern world today. With the advancement in communication, trade, and business, globalization has become a common phenomenon we experience every day. Simple things such as the t-shirts we are wearing are all products of globalization – Bangladesh produces cotton, which is transported to China for t-shirt manufacturing, which is then delivered to the U.S. for sale. However, as the world becomes more interconnected, it also becomes more problematic. Just like Guillen said, globalization can be harmful and many people have begun the phenomenon because of the negative consequences that come with it.

    The refugee crisis in Europe is connected to the disruption of people’s everyday life, increasing threats of terrorism, and high crime rate. The China-US trade war is connected to increasing tension, rising tariffs, lower exports, as well as turbulence in the stock market. The spread of COVID-19 is connected to social inconvenience, high mortality rate, and countries leveraging for diplomatic gains. At first glance, globalization seems to have created many problems.

    But globalization began for a reason. Countries started the interchange of goods and inevitably, cultures and languages, because of comparative advantage. Trading allows each country to specialize and produce more efficiently, thus creating interdependent relationships between countries.

    Take me for a simpler example. I have lived and studied in three dramatically different countries. I was born in China, studied abroad in Singapore since I was 10, and moved to the US to study in high school. Throughout this journey, I have learned of different cultures and languages as well as developed an open mindset. One of the most important things I learned is that diversity in values, interests, races, ethnicities can always spark new and better ideas. If every country in the world became self-sufficient and closed off, I would not have had the opportunity to travel and explore, nor would I be able to broaden my perspective. I would not have been me.

    Globalization also causes more competition between countries, which promotes economic and technological growth. The first industrial revolution in Europe was during the same time as the Qing Dynasty in China when China refused to accept foreign influence and failed to see the advancement of technology in Europe. Years later, the once glorious country that invented gunpowder, paper, printing, clock, even earthquake detector was carved out into different colonies by powerful European nations.

    Amy Chua’s book “Day of Empire” also talks about the importance of globalization. She writes that one of the most important reasons why the US became a “hyperpower” is that it is an immigrant society with a human capital that consists of the most talented individuals from all over the world – a product of globalization. China, on the other hand, is hardly an immigrant society as Chinese people see themselves as sharing common ancestry. Without diversified human resources, it is difficult for China to supersede the US.

    Globalization is a complex problem and a double-edged sword but it did and continues to bring many benefits to humankind. During the COVID-19 crisis, even though the Chinese government has great leverage over global health supplies and uses it for diplomatic gains, many Chinese Americans in the US are united and devoted to aiding American hospitals by using their relationships in China to bring over PPE. And I think that is the power of globalization.

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