Globalization 4.0, a hot topic at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum held in January 2019 in Davos, Switzerland, has gradually come under the spotlight. However, if examined from a broader and more holistic perspective, globalization itself has a significance that goes beyond economic and commercial spheres.
From Globalization 1.0 to Globalization 4.0, the four rounds constitute an important part of globalization in modern times, but they are not all about globalization.
According to the white paper of the Davos Forum released in January 2019, titled “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” after humanity entered the stage of modern capitalism, Globalization 4.0 has manifested more as an adaptation to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the building up of a new global economic structure and governance architecture driven by technology.
Evolution of globalization
In his 2015 book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, British historian Peter Frankopan said, “2,000 years ago, globalization was a fact of life, one that presented opportunities, created problems, and prompted technological advances.”
The land-based Silk Road connected Asia, Africa and Europe, linking the previously isolated East and West together. Its significance is not confined to the exchange of commodities and goods, but lies more in the “Silk Road Spirit” based on exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.
Facts of this kind reflect that trade links of staple commodities were common at that time among regions around the world. In other words, globalization had gradually taken shape amid the exchange of commodities.
Globalization of the British model took advantage of the Renaissance, was driven by the Industrial Revolution, and took the form of maritime trade, overseas colonization and slavery, bringing into being the British Empire and basically connecting all of humanity across geographic space. This wave of globalization was predominantly powered by the steam engine in the First Industrial Revolution and electrification in the second.
The American model of globalization created a soft hegemony, dominating the world in the name of democracy and freedom, and with the internet and social media as carriers. It was closely related to the Third Industrial Revolution that featured the application of computer and internet technologies.
As the current Fourth Industrial Revolution has been fostering the digital economy, a brand-new developmental model, the dividends brought by the previous three industrial revolutions have been diminishing. Thanks to the thriving of the internet, cyberspace has shown growing promise as a value driver. What type of global architecture to build and how to build it have been put on the agenda of contemporary global governance.
The new round of technological revolution characterized by intelligent manufacturing has fused such technologies as industrial robots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud computing, 3D printing and block chain, thus expediting the reform of the manufacturing sector.
However, Globalization 4.0 as it was widely discussed at the Davos forum focuses mainly on technology and economy. It doesn’t represent the whole of globalization.
Globalization advocated by China
According to theories on the evolution of globalization, it is clear that globalization was primarily driven by technological revolutions. The fundamental motive stems from the profit-seeking nature of “personified” capital, as Karl Marx would call it.
The globalization model based on technological and economic growth has indeed brought progress and convenience to life, but it inherently contains fundamental flaws. American sociologist and historian Immanuel Wallerstein summed them up as the “structural crisis” in the world system: The Kondratieff Cycle and the Cycle of Hegemony will no longer return to the equilibrium, therefore resulting in prolonged structural crises and instability.
If the development of globalization is viewed through the lens of intercultural communication, globalization with Chinese characteristics based on cross-civilizational exchange and dialogue might be a supplement or an alternative defining the new wave of globalization.
First of all, Globalization 4.0 dubbed at the Davos Forum is at root a concept echoing the new economy. It is another name for Industry 4.0, downplaying or even ignoring the fact that globalization should be an all-encompassing and grander narrative covering politics, economics, culture, and science and technology. The so-called Globalization 4.0 in Davos terms is unfortunately incomplete.
Globalization with Chinese characteristics organically integrates concepts, institutions and action. It will be guided by experience with the transformation of the traditional Chinese culture, blending Marxist communism, the Chinese “Tianxia” philosophy, and critiques to Western liberal values. It is a holistic perspective, rather than binary or isolated, with openness, inclusiveness, innovation and harmony as values for this wave of globalization.
It respects the temporal and spatial identity and features of each civilization shaped through their historical and realistic development, regarding each entity as equal, mutually beneficial and reciprocal.
In terms of institutional design, globalization with Chinese characteristics takes the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative as its platform. The B&R is not only about the connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people, but also aims to build five paths, those to peace, prosperity, openness, innovation and civilization. The realization from the five types of connectivity to the five paths defines the process of globalization with Chinese characteristics. It is a process from communication and connectivity to integration and harmony.
Community of shared future
With the convening of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in mid-May 2019, to build a community of a shared future for Asia has become a goal increasingly recognized in the region. Globalization with Chinese characteristics is also removing barriers and is being translated into the Asian model of globalization toward the goal.
If the 21st century is a century for Asia, the Asian Century will in fact be a new global century. Compared with other regions in the world, Asia boasts richer experience in diversity and mutual learning, and it is endowed with abundant resources and natural advantages for the building of the community of a shared future for Asia. The success in the building of the Asian community of a shared future will encourage the participation of countries around the world in their efforts to build the community of a shared future for mankind.
Globalization with Asian characteristics born out of the Chinese model transcends Globalization 4.0 on the pure technology-economy path. It follows a path for more inclusive, fair and just globalization. Guided by the dialogue-oriented outlook on the development of civilizations, featuring openness, inclusiveness and innovation on the platform of the B&R, it will make significant contributions to the building of the community of a shared future, ultimately to the well-being of all of humanity.
Globalization in this sense is a process in which new global localization and local globalization interplay and promote each other.
First comes new global localization. The contemporary world is interconnected as never before. Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village” theory has been inadequate to describe the panoramic, revolutionary changes to globalization brought by information and communication technologies.
The traditional time and space for communication has been squeezed to the minimum, and communication among civilizations is open to an unprecedented degree. Only by negotiating, dialoguing and cooperating with other civilizations under equal and reciprocal circumstances can mankind effectively cope with common challenges facing global governance today.
Different from the American model of globalization that pursues cultural assimilation, the new global localization in the Asian model doesn’t intend to create a stereotyped, single cultural pattern, nor does it aim to shape totally different characters from the original civilization of each country. Instead, it is based on the respect of the characters of each civilization to adapt to each of their developmental models.
When it comes to local globalization, the dialogue-based civilization in the universal sense, boiled down to fundamentals, originates from localized and fragmented regional experiences. The Asian model of globalization requires all regions to contribute public goods to the global community being built for a shared future, so as to discover universality from peculiarity and come up with a universally applicable path of development through the equal integration of local experiences.
On the basis of admitting cultural interrelation and diversity, the Asian model of globalization can consolidate the greatest common divisor for the identification of basic human values through mutual understanding, tolerance of difference, and equal interaction, thereby contributing Asian proposals for the building of the community of a shared future for mankind.
Jia Wenshan is a lifetime professor of communication studies at Chapman University in the United States; and Jiang Haofeng is a Ph.D. candidate from the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University of China. The authors represent their own independent scholarly views and analyses which do not necessarily reflect those of institutions.