We have all been brought up with globalisation as the great economic revolution of the past few decades, along with the unstoppable rise of those emerging giants of India and China and the dynamism of global trade. What a load of tosh… So, my apologies as I divert you towards a short history lesson.
All of us have heard of or read about the Silk Road, if only from that wonderful work of hysterical faction of Marco Polo apparently discovering China (which must have come as a big surprise to the Chinese).The Silk Road, as a description of trade routes to the east, had been around for centuries. We know that Rome traded with southern India, and even had some naval power in the Indian Ocean. It seems that from about the fourth century BC, both the Greeks and Romans became aware of a Kingdom of Seres, or the Kingdom of Silk. By way of a side story there was some record that the first Romans to set eyes upon the fabulous silken fabric were the legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus (he of the First Triumvirate with Pompey and Julius Caesar). It was said, that at the disastrous battle of Carrhae, near the Euphrates River in 53 BC, the soldiers were so startled by the bright silken banners of the Parthian troops that they fled in panic.
In fact, there was little direct contact between the Romans with the Chinese, although the Romans certainly loved and valued silk. In fact, they knew so little about it, that some thought that it grew on trees. By the second half of the 1st century, the Han’s general Pan Chao had supressed much opposition, and in 97 he decided to directly contact the Roman Empire (Da Chi’en) by sending an ambassador, Kan Ying. Kan Ying set off to the West along the Silk Road with obligatory gifts, but sadly only got as far as the Parthian Empire in Mesopotamia and the old enemies of Rome.
The Parthians saw no reason to help and thus, dissuaded him from sailing to Rome, after which he gave up and returned home. As far as the Parthians were concerned, they were not going to give up their excellent economic position of being the profitable trading bulwark between the two.
In fact, the first direct contact between Rome and China only happened in the second century after the Roman Empire defeated Parthia and their control extended briefly to the Persian Gulf. In AD 166, the first Roman envoy was sent by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, from the Persian Gulf and successfully arrived China. Trade thus followed, albeit not huge at first, but here was one of the first examples of true globalisation. So… suck on that Marco!
Anyway, back to today. Globalisation has certainly been damaged by the effect of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it will be doomed. Economies around the globe following a virulent and painful recession will (subject to co-ordinated economic and political action) start to grow again and that will, in due course, involve greater levels of trade. However, the effect and impact of the economic catastrophe that has been created will leave an indelible mark. The benefits of low-cost production linked into long trade routes has been proven, but that is only so long as those routes remain open. The fear of any repetition of such a similar breakdown, will mean that companies will try to ‘de-risk’ their supply lines and make them shorter.
So, does that mean we start making iPhones in Ipswich, or Primark’s ex-Bangladeshi t-shirts in Pontypool? The answer is unlikely- well certainly not at those costs or conditions. What it does mean, is that the search for sourcing will be shortened. As an example, we thought we could buy loads of dodgy PPE kits from Turkey, or alternatively, maybe we start to make them ourselves?
What is the effect of this? The answer will be new business opportunities as companies look to restructure and secure themselves from further such risks. This will mean, new investment and new initiatives, most of which will not be in London or the South East, but rather in the regions- or even Regionally!
Let me add in another area currently looking bombed out but with a potentially exciting future- leisure and tourism! Why? Well I for one, am not going to be queueing for hours at crowded airports to get on a crowded plane, but I will be very happy to go to those wonderful domestic holiday sites which have often been so ignored in favour of trendy tourist fashion fads.
So, globalisation isn’t dead, but globalisation has been challenged, thus in its place is the opportunity for localisation to really grow and benefit our damaged economy and our understandably bewildered population.
Is it just us that suffer during periods of isolation and lockdown? Well, no- it appears that many of those creatures we may have taken for granted may be missing us as well.
A Japanese aquarium that closed during the coronavirus outbreak is asking people to make video calls to their eels, so the sensitive creatures remember humans exist and don’t pose a threat.
The aquarium, housed in the landmark Tokyo Skytree tower, has been closed since the start of March and its inhabitants have become used to a largely human-free environment during the two-month calm. The aquarium has said that this was having some unexpected downsides.
“Creatures in the aquarium don’t see humans, except keepers and they have started forgetting about humans” it said. “Garden eels in particular disappear into the sand and hide every time the keepers pass by.”. This then causes problems for keepers trying to check on the health of the animals.
So, they have come up with an answer: “Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?” it requested, calling the event a ‘face-showing festival’. It seems that the Garden eels are very sensitive and wary by nature but 300 of them living in a tank at the aquarium, had become used to humans and rarely hid in the sand when approached by visitors. Thus, in a bid to reacquaint the eels with humans, the aquarium is setting up five tablets facing the tank housing the delicate creatures, with eel enthusiasts asked to connect through iPhones or iPads via FaceTime.
Once the video calls start, people are supposed to show their faces, wave, and talk to the eels. But given the tender nature of the animals, callers are asked not to shout. Soft singing may be allowed and given that this is the weekend of the VE celebrations, possibly a rendition of ‘Eel meet again’ might be appropriate- but given that it is in Japan where VE commemoration is a minority issue, it is probably not.
Have a good week and please stay healthy and safe.
Image source: Karandighi (cleanpng.com)