The idea that the globalising wave of the last quarter of a century was mostly built on cheap energy and easy money is one that we’re now getting the opportunity to test. So far, the hypothesis is holding up. In particular, according to a story in this week’s Daily Telegraph, high energy costs seem to be having a significant impact on China’s low-cost manufacturing sectors. At the same time, Paul Krugman has been niggling away at the underlying economics. After all, as the French are supposed to say: That’s all very well in practice, but how does it look in theory?
I visited the recently refurbished Royal Observatory at Greenwich last weekend, where there is, inevitably, a whole section devoted to Harrison and his clock-based solution to the ‘longitude problem’. (The story of his fight with the Astronomer Royal, Neville Maskelyne, and the astronomy establishment, which preferred the so-called ‘lunar solution’, is famously told by Dava Sobel in her book ‘Longitude’.) But the reason for posting is that the Observatory describes Harrison’s fourth clock, the H-4 pocket watch, as “one of the most important machines ever made”.
A short paper by a couple of economists (one American, one Irish) takes a long view of the preconditions for periods of globalisation – and the circumstances in which it goes into reverse. It suggests, perhaps depressingly, that war (and military power) is often a precondition, and sometimes a consequence.
I blogged at the start of the month on Martin Jacques’ observation on the extent to which China was now more significant than the US in the politics of Asia in all aspects other than military. Since then, I’ve noticed a post on the IFTF blog which argued that as China and India become the dominant trading partners across Africa and Asia that we are reverting to the trading patterns seen before European colonisation.
One of the things you learn working as a journalist is that most news is predictable – a point satirised by Michael Frayn in his outstanding novel The Tin Men in the 1960s. But sometimes headlines do still surprise you. One such was the news that British car exports had reached record levels last year.
I blogged earlier this year on the toy industry and Chinese production, and on the idea of ‘toxic consumption‘ – that the things we buy are bad for our health. Christmas seems a good time to come back to it, and Core 77 (thanks) points me in the direction of a long article by Jonathan Dee in the New York Times on Mattel and its attempts to manage reputation in low cost global markets.