The rise of globalisation has turned our world into a “giant, fragile train set”, says Simon Kuper in the FT. Over the past 30 years we have taken “almost every unused piece of track out of the box” – China, India, the former Soviet bloc – and “joined them all together”. This “new enlarged circuit” has turbocharged global trade. But it has also made us more vulnerable. When one bit of track malfunctions, it affects the whole world – “and that’s been happening ever more often”. Since 2001 we’ve had “four serious derailments”: 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic and now the Ukraine war. Previously, implosions in places like Russia and China wouldn’t affect the outside world: when Stalin and Mao killed millions of their own people, “hardly any foreigners even heard the screams”. Today, everything affects everyone.
As a result, we’ve all become “deglobalisers” trying to create our own self-contained train sets. Joe Biden wants every last screw in his aircraft carriers to be made in America; Emmanuel Macron says France should make its own pharmaceuticals; the EU is determined to stop using Russian energy. “Even the globalisation of the mind is being reversed.” Russia wants to ape China by “shutting out the global internet”. And who knows when the pre-2020 hordes of Chinese tourists and students will return to the West? For now, though, “we are living in an era of global fragility”.