Home / China / View

Brexit tells world to change path of globalization

By Zhu Yuan | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-09-04 14:57

The implications of Britain's decision to leave the European Union could extend far beyond the bloc itself. It could be an antidote to the downside of globalization, or it could backfire on the problematic global economy.

Even many Britons in the "leave" camp were surprised that most of the country voted to leave the EU. With the number of people demanding another referendum on the rise, it seems most of those who voted to leave just wanted to register a protest, to remind the British government of the problems or potential problems the country could face.

Yet the fact that 57 percent of the upper class wanted to remain while the middle class was fairly divided and two-thirds of the population below them supported Brexit - as revealed in analysis in The Times of London - speaks volumes of the dissatisfaction most Britons felt because of the situation created by globalization or neoliberalism.

Thanks to globalization, integration has been a frequently used word in the recent decades, with major countries trying to integrate the world into one economic entity to facilitate free trade. The establishment of such a huge global platform for business has indeed facilitated vibrant economic activities and innovative endeavors. The living standards of many people in emerging countries have improved. China, with a little less than one-fourth of the world population, is a case in point.

Yet globalization has also been widening the chasm between the haves and have-nots, and the world's wealth has been increasingly concentrating in the hands of a few elites, both in developed and developing countries. And China is no exception.

The 2008 global financial crisis was the result of the insatiable greed of bankers on Wall Street, who designed different types of derivatives to cajole clients into investing in papers whose face values were much higher than their actual worth. The main slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement in late 2011, "We are the 99 percent", reflected the frustration of a large number of people in the world's most advanced country.

The same is true for other places in the world. In China, while a few Chinese names figure on the list of the world's wealthiest people, the gap between the haves and have-nots has been widening at an unprecedented pace.

If globalization continues to give shape to a world in which wealth continues to converge in the hands of a small group of elites, and the unequal distribution of wealth continues to take its toll on an increasing number of people across the world, the disintegration of economic unions such as the EU could become the rule rather than the exception.

If the increasingly serious threat from terrorism and extremism also has something to do with the side effects of globalization, or if it is the result of some Western countries' forcible efforts to foist their development models and values on other countries, Brexit will likely be just the beginning of the disintegration of the world economy as we know it today.

The Chinese have a saying: If integration is too long a process, disintegration is inevitable, and vice-versa.

It may be too early to conclude that Brexit is the harbinger of the disintegration of the EU or the collapse of globalization. But it would be unwise for world leaders and economists to not pay urgent attention to the problems globalization has created over the past couple of decades.

Whatever effect Brexit will have on the EU or on the British economy, it should serve as a warning that something needs to be done to at least change the way globalization has been practiced until now.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. Contact the writer at

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349