Globalization and Technological Advancements

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What factors help make some countries more globalized than others?

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Globalization is a very important trend in the twenty-first century. Countries are increasingly linked economically, culturally, and politically. Large organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union (EU) often seem more powerful than the governments of individual nations. Globalization has become controversial, too. Many citizens of...

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Globalization is a very important trend in the twenty-first century. Countries are increasingly linked economically, culturally, and politically. Large organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union (EU) often seem more powerful than the governments of individual nations. Globalization has become controversial, too. Many citizens of various nations fear that their national autonomy is being usurped by nefarious global forces.

A recent study by the KOF Globalisation Index ranks Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium as the world's most-globalized nations. This is not surprising when you consider these nations' outstanding attributes. First, these countries' citizens are multilingual. Belgians and Swiss are typically adept at two or more languages. The Dutch are the best non-native English speakers in the world, and Belgians are also good at English—the world's international language. Second, corruption is not a serious problem in these countries. Corruption usually works against globalization as entrenched local interests seek to maintain their economic, political, and social privileges. Third, these countries have a thriving foreign trade. Also, their position in, or next to, the European Union facilitates their commerce. Finally, these nations are politically stable, and are at peace.

According to KOF, the least-globalized nations include Eritrea, the Central African Republic, and Afghanistan. These unfortunate countries lack the positive attributes outlined above and suffer from myriad problems.

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There are numerous factors that impact how globalized a nation is. For the most part, the wealth of a nation will determine how well it can reach out and interact with as well as trade with other nations. Impoverished countries do not have as many opportunities to trade or scale up production of resources so that they can export efficiently.

Availability of resources is also beneficial and can make a nation more globalized. If a nation is inherently flush with a particularly important resource, such as oil in the Middle East, they will have other nations clamoring for business with them. This immediately makes them more globalized.

Some nations can also accomplish globalization through better technology. If they have the means to transport goods efficiently and communicate well with other nations, they will be able to expand globally relatively efficiently even if they are lacking in wealth or other resources.

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In regard to infrastructure, access to the Internet and data networks has had a major impact on the ability of countries to be more globally connected. Countries with the best Internet access including South Korea, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries, keep Internet services relatively cheap, therefore making them accessible to more people who can use the services for purposes ranging from business to education. For example, improved and increased connectivity has made it possible for language instructors in one country to instruct students in another.

Another important factor in increased globalization is a relaxation of protectionism — a standard that attempts to keep certain industries, such as manufacturing, within a nation's borders. However, protectionism remains controversial with some people believing that that jobs should never be outsourced, and others insisting that some jobs must leave a nation's shores due to the unwillingness of citizens to perform low-wage jobs. As the previous educator mentioned, wealthy nations' desire for cheap goods fosters a necessity for cheap labor.

Those goods are also shipped at a lower cost due to a decline in the cost of ocean shipping. This drop in cost is attributed to containerization and bulk shipping.

Finally, in recent decades we have seen a rise in global brands, particularly in technology. Apple and Samsung are good examples of this. The construction of smartphones requires materials and labor from multiple continents. Once again, there is controversy over the exploitation of materials and labor — notably, Apple's maintenance of the FoxConn factory in China. These industries are as dependent on the cooperation of other nations for the production of materials as they are on other nations to buy their products.

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There are a number of factors that can help to determine how much a particular country gets integrated into the globalized world.  Let us look at a few of them:

  • Wealth.  Wealthy countries are typically very globalized.  The main reason for this is that they are major consumers of goods and services that can be offshored and made in foreign countries.  Such countries’ consumers tend to demand the lowest possible prices, making it important for firms to manufacture in other countries and sell to the rich countries.
  • Infrastructure.  Among countries that are not wealthy, it is important that they not be too undeveloped.  Truly underdeveloped countries like many African countries have a hard time becoming globalized.  This is because they, unlike countries such as Thailand or Vietnam, lack the infrastructure that allows large multinational corporations to locate in them. 
  • Location.  Countries that are located near to rich countries are very likely to get connected to the global network.  It is for this reason that Jamaica, for example, is more connected to the global economy than a country in Africa.  The proximity to rich countries (and the fact that English is spoken as a native language) makes Jamaica a more appealing place for globalization.
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