“In 1492 Columbus sailed the blue ocean. He had three ships and set out from Spain; He sailed through sun, wind and rain…” The catchy song is a nostalgia for the end the Middle Ages and the dawn of the era of “globalization.” From the 15th century, globalization has experienced four accentuated phases: maritime trade, Pax Britannica, Pax Americana, and the current phase of co-competition led by the United States and China.

As conflicts in an increasingly digital and ‘smart’ world threaten to disrupt these relationships, we find ourselves mired in a pandemic once in a century and struggling every day to cope with death, grief and trauma. Concerns are growing as we undermine the Delta variant of COVID-19 as extreme weather disasters strike closer and closer to home. Globalization is at a crossroads, with frayed links, fragmented commons and rising protectionism. Tectonic changes catch us off guard, just when we are most vulnerable.

These aggravated crises reveal the flaws in global governance, showing us that we need a more robust surveillance system to ensure the stability and growth of a world redefined by pandemic, climate change and other puzzling issues. . Wang Xiaonan and Zeng Ziyi of CGTN spoke with several prominent officials and academics to see what can be done to improve this system, as well as the role China and other great powers can play in this fractured geopolitical landscape.

Chen Deming, former Chinese Minister of Commerce, Honorary President of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG)

It has been over 70 years since the end of WWII. After the two world wars, we have witnessed a tremendous economic rehabilitation. In the 1980s, neoliberalism precipitated a faster accumulation of wealth with the expansion of multinationals in the Western world. At the time, the Soviet Union collapsed following the fall of the Berlin Wall. A globalized market is born.

At the turn of the century, an information revolution brought about a great leap in globalization, greatly accumulating the volume of world trade. However, over 70 percent of trade is in intermediate products, which means that each country is on some link in the global supply chain. The constantly evolving trend embodies the optimal portfolio of factors of production within the framework of global capital flows. Human wealth has skyrocketed, but global governance has failed to catch up.

Wealth inequalities remain high between countries and within countries. With a few having plenty, those with the fewest products and resources express their displeasure. Populism and parish nationalism are emerging, giving rise to an anti-globalization trend. Then COVID-19 hit, making things even more complicated.

Where is globalization heading? I think this must continue because advances in science and technology dictate that countries that reject cooperation will fall behind.

Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for China

Globalization is truly at its best now. It is the driving force behind improving living conditions in the poorest countries. But there is not enough cooperation; there is not enough collaboration to ensure that vaccines are accessible to all countries.

We work very hard to make sure our clients have access to the funding they need to get vaccinated. But we also continue to advocate for sustaining global value chains and sustaining the global trading system, because what we have seen during the pandemic is that countries are more integrated and have more open markets, in does even better. The experience of the past two years confirms that multinational cooperation is important and that countries are more successful when working together.

Cooperation seems difficult on certain issues and between certain countries. But remember that cooperation covers a number of issues on which many agree. Think of climate change, for example. China will organize the COP15 in Kunming of the Convention on Biological Diversity this year. We are going to have COP26 on climate change in November. These are opportunities for global economies to come together around issues that concern us all because they are global public goods, and no country is going to ignore them. The field of international cooperation remains very important.

China has an important role. It is the second largest economy. It is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. To start with climate change without China, no international climate agreement will be credible and will not achieve what we need to accomplish to meet the Paris goals. Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced very important goals of achieving net zero by 2060. China is currently working on an action plan and is also exchanging ideas with other countries on how to make the economy more resilient world. These are contributions that China can make, as a leader, to achieve greener development.

China also has a role to play in international trade, supporting good international investment standards not only through multilateral institutions, but also through its own bilateral investment banks.

Zhu Guangyao, Former Chinese Vice Minister of Finance, Advisor to the GCC

Globalization is at a crucial time. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the world, causing the global economy to fall 3.3% in 2020. Working from home, e-learning and telemedicine services have become a new normal, playing a central role in the start of life when the world has come to a standstill. The digital economy, with three pillars in e-commerce, big data and AI, has exploded under these circumstances, opening up new opportunities for the development of globalization.

The flourishing digital economy has also precipitated a shift towards free trade, which in its new phase attaches more importance to environmental protection, labor rights, justice and sustainable development.

The digital economy generated by the pandemic is bringing globalization to a new stage. Last year, China’s digital economy accounted for around 40% of its GDP, playing a leading role in the global economic recovery. In the next step, the negotiations on electronic commerce at the WTO are very important.

However, with the new phase of globalization came new challenges ranging from epidemics, natural disasters, geopolitical tensions, financial crises to cyber attacks.

These risks are there to threaten the trend towards globalization if we fail to coordinate our policies with each other.

Philip Kisray, Vice President of John Wiley & Sons

In today’s world we live in today, there is no doubt that diversity and globalization must be the way forward in terms of collaboration. Individual countries are less powerful.

This is how states operate at the official level; this is also how human beings work together. Scientists collaborate when they are discouraged from collaborating because they need to work with each other; they respect each other. Whether in research or education, the sharing of practices for the greater good is unprecedented.

Cui Hongjian, Director of European Studies, China Institute of Social Sciences

Globalization itself faces challenges. It is above all the failure of the policies of certain governments and certain economies. We must strike a balance between further development and a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources.

At the same time, we need to achieve greater consensus among the major economies in the management of globalization itself in order to ensure that more people can reap the benefits of globalization.

It is time for China to play an updated role in the new era of globalization. China has already become the world’s second-largest economy, which means China has more capacity to do something. The reality in recent years is that China has tried to provide more public goods to the international community, including development aid.

Now, most importantly, China and the other major economies need to get more consensus at a time when geopolitical tensions are interrupting globalization and economic cooperation.