As if you couldn’t tell, we just survived (?!) another election in the U.S. The craziness of it all is enough to drive anyone nutty. But one thing that continues to boggle my mind is the way involvement in global markets becomes the attack du jour on so many American political ads. Of course China tops the list. If you want to really start a scandal, run an ad about how your opponent was a business owner who set up a plant in China!
The sound bytes go something like this: “Did you know she outsourced jobs to China?” “Why does your senator have investments in a Chinese bank?”
I’m not really perplexed by the strategy. I get the argument. After all, I live in Michigan, pretty much the worst economy in the union. “Globalization” is a four-letter word for many people in this state because of the way its taken jobs from workers here and given them to people who can be paid 10 percent as much. I’m not insensitive to the heartache and burden this has caused to many U.S. families nor do I feel good about a system that exploits people in developing nations simply to increase profit margins for a few here.
But it’s so much more complex than that. Declaring global trade as “good” or “bad” is living in denial of the flat world in which we live. Lost in these advertising quips is the needed debate and conversation about the complexities of global trade. No political party has a monopoly on this. I saw it everywhere during this recent election season.
Nearly all of us wear clothes and buy products made and produced in China. Our retirement plans include funds invested globally. We produce and export ideas, products, and services to the world and increasingly they’re doing so with us. Is that so evil? Citizens and business leaders need to insist that government leaders and politicians work with the business community to think carefully about this and the real issues related to fair trade policies.
Let’s reject the isolationism and xenophobia implied by this political strategy. We live in a global world. There’s no going back. And while there are challenges that need to be regulated and addressed, our global interconnectivity also brings several opportunities. Globally, 70 million people joined the middle class last year, most of whom are in India and China. Many of these individuals are working for multinational companies that have hired them. An additional 1 billion individuals are expected to join the middle class in the next 10 years. In turn, these individuals enjoy a better quality of life, contribute to their societies, and purchase products and services offered by the companies that reach out to them.
Emerging markets are not simply the competition to be feared. They represent an amazing opportunity. The knots binding our global economies together cannot be untied—especially between the U.S. and China. So let’s move beyond the toxic rhetoric and put our energy toward making the most of our globalized world for everyone involved. Leading with cultural intelligence requires that we see the world for what it is—a complex place of which we’re all part—and a place that requires vision, adaptability, and innovation to make the most of the opportunities in store for everyone!