Since the emergence of local, regional and national economies, there has been a constant evolution in the stages of cultural and economic development. Globalization is another step in that evolution. It is not a unique event just bursting onto the scene, but rather, the 21st century version of a predictable age old dynamic. Yet due to the accelerated pace at which change now occurs, a backlash is growing and supported by a variety of groups.

Just as in nature, if balance is lost, counter forces emerge that push back in an attempt to seek an arrangement that works. For example, when deer populations exceed their environmental limitations, dwindling food supplies reduce their number. This natural countering effect occurs in all systems, including religious, political and economic ones. For example, when overzealous popes wielded excessive power, the Protestant Reformation formed and challenged existing doctrine. When the Great Depression caused unemployment to skyrocket, Fascism emerged as an alternative political system. And, when unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism became the rage, Marxism provided the opposition. Unfortunately, since cause and effect do not always fall closely together, forces often do not or cannot see the unintended consequences of their actions.

Just as there was no halting the Industrial Revolution, globalization will not be stopped. But it can be slowed—and this prospect has the potential to undermine our quality of life. Through misinformation or unbalanced media reports, anti-globalist forces may have reached a tipping point, and through major protests, persuaded millions of people to fear, not embrace, globalization.

The results are obvious. In December 1999, thousands of protesters disrupted the WTO meeting in Seattle. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds of activists and the talks ended prematurely. In April 2000, thousands of protesters descended upon a World Bank and International Monetary Fund meeting paralyzing Washington, D.C. In September 2000, Czech police used tear gas and water cannons to prevent demonstrators from closing down a World Bank and International Monetary Fund conference in Prague. In April 2001, anti-globalization activists disrupted a Summit of the Americas meeting in Quebec, Canada. In July 2001, young Italian activists were fatally shot by police in a confrontation at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. Although anti-globalist voices have faded since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the movement remains strong. The most recent reminder occurred at the July 2005 G8 summit. Reportedly, 3,500 protesters, many shouting anti-globalization slogans amid others who spoke out on African poverty and climate change, marched through the Scottish village of Auchterarder near the Gleneagles Resort, the host of the summit. Several hundred protestors clashed with police. The summit was not overshadowed by protesters, however, but by terrorist bombings in London.

Anti-globalist organizations, whose intentions are admirable, often describe themselves as human rights groups. In response, they achieve a moral high ground and in turn, often get the benefit of the doubt from the press. Ironically, if the policies advocated by these organizations were ever implemented, they would do tremendous damage to the groups they seek to help.

Few organizations have attempted to counter the anti-globalization movement. Corporate America, which has the resources to do so, needs to provide balance and set the record straight. In a May 2005 opinion-editorial (op-ed), Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century and New York Times columnist, said “After six weeks of being a foreign correspondent traveling around America, the biggest question I have come home with is not ‘What’s the matter with Kansas?’ but rather, ‘What’s the matter with big business?’ ... when I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive—American business leaders—they seem to be missing in action.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, Japan was the country most feared by the United States in terms of economic competition. In fact, in the minds of many, the promise of America was over; Japanese economic power would dictate. In the 1990s, Mexico became the focus of the American public. Ross Perot had millions of Americans convinced that we would all hear a “giant sucking sound” as U.S. jobs headed south, a famously incorrect forecast. Now, globalization, China and India have become top of mind in terms of economic threats. Is this justified? Yes, if you believe most of what you read in the newspapers. As a result of these fears and new challenges, companies need to be mindful how they explain the impact of today’s fast-moving changes on their businesses—and exceptionally careful about how they communicate what they intend to do about them. Since a large number of Americans, including reporters, policymakers, employees and investors, believe trade and globalization represent forces to fear, not opportunities to seize, crafting messages in this environment of distrust is very difficult. By implementing the strategies detailed in Part II and considering the talking points in Part III, you will be better prepared to achieve your communications goals.

This section appeared in Part I: Understanding Today's Global Realities of the book Grasping Globalization: Its Impact and Your Corporate Response, 2005.
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John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the ManzellaReport.com, is a world-recognized speaker, author of several books, and a nationally syndicated columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.




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