Once upon a time, everyone assumed that there was a single phenomenon called globalisation, whereby cross-border flows of financial capital drove innovation, industrialisation, development, and trade, writes Harold James. But Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) advances an alternative vision of globalisation, based on an integrated system of physical infrastructure. The material world of ships and trains will replace the immaterial world of financialisation.But while Xi conceived the BRI as a straightforward way to consign the old, unstable Western-led globalisation to the dustbin of history, it is also meant to address a particular domestic challenge: Namely, the concentration of economic development along China’s coast, where a wealthy, sophisticated seaboard elite has emerged. Social stability demands that the gains from China’s extraordinary growth be distributed more evenly throughout the country.This is not just a Chinese issue, of course. Historically, globally significant cities have almost always been littoral — located either on coastlines or navigable rivers. Centuries ago, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Genoa, and Venice served as the world’s commercial hubs. Today, metropolises such as London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro perform a similar role.In the BRI division of labor, the ‘road’ refers (counterintuitively)… Read full this story
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