What is globalization? What are the central points of each section? What do you think about globalization? Read the following article about globali


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Week 1 Assignment

Read the following article about globalization and write a two to three-
page paper explaining your thoughts and what you learned. Your paper
should cover the following points:

1. What is globalization? 2. What are the central points of each section? 3. What do you think about globalization? (You can relate it to
real world events if you want)

National Geographic: “Globalization” www.nationalgeographic.com
By Erla Zwingle

Section I:

“Globalization”—lots of people seem to think it means that the world is turning into
some consumer colony of America. Coke, CNN, McDonald’s, Levi’s, Nikes—if they
haven’t taken over the world yet, the feeling goes, they will soon. (Odd: Japan is the
world’s second largest economy, and yet I’ve never heard of anyone who buys Sony or
eats sushi believing that it’s part of some plot to turn the world into Japan.)

But regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, in the past 20 years much of the
world’s economy has become increasingly integrated and foreign direct investment
has grown three times as fast as total domestic investment. From 1980 to 1995 the value
of trade worldwide rose dramatically, with the total value of world exports estimated at
U.S. $5.1 trillion in 1995, up from U.S. $2 trillion in 1980.

Yet the globalization phenomenon is more than the mere transfer of goods, the fact that,
for instance, you can buy French mineral water and Danish beer in the Shanghai airport
or eat Japanese ramen out of your suburban microwave. It’s the advent of cheap and
ubiquitous information technologies that is dissolving our sense of boundaries. More
and more television channels and the Internet have contributed to what expert Daniel
Yergin calls a “woven world.”

When we talk about “globality” (a new buzzword), we’re trying to define a world in
which cultures meet and, rather than fight, they blend. As observer Frederick Tipson
notes, “More like a thin but sticky coating than a powerful acid, this cosmopolitan culture
of communications networks and the information media seems to overlay rather than
supplant the cultures it interacts with.” Because when cultures receive outside
influences, they ignore some and adopt others, and then almost immediately start to
transform them.

That’s how you end up listening to something called “bhangra pop” in India, to take an
example at random: sounds like Jamaican reggae played on traditional Indian instruments,
then amplified. “As things get more global,” commented Norman Klein, a
communications professor in Los Angeles, “they’re actually becoming more

Section II

I went to China, India, and Los Angeles to discover what globalization feels like in three
of the most diverse places on Earth. Almost immediately I found that the ideas I started
out with turned out to be too small, too old, or just plain wrong.

For the past year and a half in Shanghai, for example, Chinese children have been
tuning in to that American children’s classic TV show Sesame Street. But here it’s
called Zhima Jie, and when you look closer, it’s not simply the American show. The
show’s team of actors and educators has been collaborating to produce a program that
promotes Chinese, rather than American, values. The kids are loving it.

“The Chinese want an environment that’s relaxed and fun that their children can be
learning in,” senior producer Cooper Wright told me on the phone from New York.
“They think they have enough formal settings for learning already. But they wanted it to
include a lot of their ancient culture. The parents get home late, they all work, and they
don’t have time to teach their children this, so they feel the show will help with that.”

Da Niao, Big Bird’s Chinese cousin, is played here by a gentle young man who still
works as a truck mechanic. The other characters are all Chinese: a lively three-year-
old red monster called Little Plum; a furry blue pig, a kindly grandfather, a very sweet
mother, and a little boy, An An, who is so funny and cute and smart that when I met him
I could scarcely believe how perfect he was for the part.

This group does many of the usual Sesame Street activities—teaching numbers, for
instance—but instead of the alphabet they teach the origin and meaning of Chinese
characters. They explain the history and customs of certain festivals. They describe
certain ancient art forms. And they also teach sharing and cooperation.

Why does this matter? Because the one-child policy has produced millions of only
children who don’t live in the large families that once fostered such behaviors. Many
Chinese freely admit that a lot of these kids, with two sets of grandparents and two
parents who work, are pretty spoiled. In fact, they’re often called Little Emperors and
Empresses. You can imagine.

“We want to concentrate on reflecting Chinese families,” explained Professor Li Ji
Mei, who designed part of the show’s curriculum, “such as what children could do to
show their respect for the family. Another important part of the program is to make
children realize how much their parents do for their well-being. In reflecting Chinese
society,” she concluded, “we reflect how people should help each other and how to share

the joy in sharing.”

I asked Professor Li if she thought there was much difference between Chinese and
American children. “I think American children are more active,” she replied immediately.
“They’re freer in expressing themselves, take the initiative more, and they’re more
independent. When Chinese babies fall on the ground, they lie there and expect their
parents to pick them up.” But Ye Chao, the show’s producer in Shanghai, notes, “I think
the difference today between children in Chinese cities and rural areas is far bigger than
between American and Chinese children.”

Cooper Wright, the senior producer in New York, believes American children could
stand to gain from some of the material in the Chinese show. “I think we could
benefit a lot from the aesthetics,” she said. “And the respect for elders. I think some of
the segments with the grandfather are wonderful, and I’d hope they could influence our

By now, 19 countries around the world are producing their own versions of Sesame
Street, using television to interpret their unique cultures. It seems to be working. Does
Big Bird feel he’s promoting America to his tiny viewers? “I don’t think so,” Ye Chao
said. “We just borrowed an American box and put Chinese content into it.”

Section III

McDonald’s may be the most notorious name in the whole complex business of
American culture going abroad. There are approximately 24,500 McDonald’s
restaurants in over 115 countries; a new McDonald’s opens somewhere in the world
every six hours. Like Coke, though, it’s easy to denigrate as the symbol of the crass,
unhealthy, commercial side of American culture. Some Japanese critics have blamed
sugar-laden junk food for juvenile crime.

American scholar Benjamin Barber has gone even farther, summing up everyone’s fears
of cultural homogenization in the simple but oddly distressing term, “McWorld.”

But McDonald’s has actually been remarkably responsive to the local cultures; they offer
ayran (a popular chilled yogurt drink) in Turkey; McLaks (a grilled salmon
sandwich) in Norway, and teriyaki burgers in Japan. In New Delhi, India, where
Hindus shun beef and Muslims refuse pork, the burgers are made of mutton and called
Maharaja Macs.

And if you’re vegetarian, as many strict Hindus are, even better: There’s not only the
McAloo Tikki burger, a spicy vegetarian patty made of potatoes and peas, but they even
figured out how to make a vegetarian mayonnaise that’s really pretty good, and doing it
without eggs is no small feat.

I had lunch in one of the eight McDonald’s in New Delhi; first mariachi music, then a
disco version of the theme from Titanic blared from the ceiling. “Cooking lamb is very
different from beef,” the manager, Sandip Maithal, told me. “The fat percentage is very
different. And for the vegetarians, we have two separate tracks of preparation. Workers
with green aprons handle only vegetarian food, while those with black aprons handle
nonvegetarian food.

“We even separated the two menus—being Indian, we had a good understanding that
vegetarians wouldn’t want to have to read about meat dishes.” What this has meant is that
mixed groups of people, with drastically different tastes and customs, have finally
found a place where they can all eat together. Is this an American idea? Does it matter?

Pamela Singh, my interpreter, was impressed. It was her first time in an Indian
McDonald’s, and she didn’t mince words. “I’d eat here again,” she said. “It’s quick, it’s
clean, it’s cheap, and it’s better than those horrible oily places—you won’t get sick. If a
local company did what McDonald’s does, they’d do just as well. But I haven’t seen
anywhere this concern for the level of cleanliness. I applaud these people.”

I did some reading up on McDonald’s around the world, and I found that while it
undeniably represents change, it’s usually positive. Take bathrooms. Till McDonald’s
arrived, customers of many Asian restaurants were resigned to bathrooms that were
horrifying. Now they’re demanding better. (I approached one mother in a Shanghai
McDonald’s whose toddler was gnawing french fries. Did she think the food was good?
“No,” she replied. So why did she come here? “Because it’s clean,” she said.)

Women in traditional cultures like to meet at McDonald’s because there’s no alcohol
served, and they see it as a safe, socially acceptable place for a woman alone to go.
And, far from being a place where you eat and run, many people, from the elderly to
teenagers, see it as a spot where they can linger. In cities where space is at a premium,
like Hong Kong, teenagers like it because it’s somewhere outside their often cramped
apartments where they can meet their friends—sometimes they even do their homework

But the fact that the staff are all local people means that the restaurant, though obviously
foreign, isn’t instantly perceived as being American. In New Delhi, as in Brazil or Manila,
you may well buy your burger from the kid down the street who speaks the local dialect.
“People call us multinational. I like to call us multilocal,” commented James
Cantalupo, president and CEO of McDonald’s International.

Section IV

“Culture,” anthropologist James Watson has commented, “is not something that people
inherit as an undifferentiated bloc of knowledge from their ancestors. Culture is a set of
ideas, reactions, and expectations that is constantly changing as people and groups
themselves change.”

Which brings us around to the subject of America. Where does the U.S. really fit into
the big global picture? After all, America isn’t the only purveyor of global goodies—it
absorbs more foreign customs and objects than most Americans are probably aware of.
But let me tell you first about a tiny moment I had in St. Petersburg, Russia.

One early summer evening I was wandering the fringes of a rock concert and political
rally in the square outside the Winter Palace. The music was like rock music anywhere—
and the square was full of teenagers in running shoes and jeans and T-shirts, some with
punk haircuts and green fingernails. One boy, who was dancing alone, wore a T-shirt
that said—in English, oddly—“Thank God I’m not in America.”

I asked him why. “Well,” he replied, “I love my country.”

Let’s not dwell on the paradox to which he seemed oblivious: that in that moment he
represented lots of Western, if not strictly American, elements, from the jeans to the
ironic slogan on his chest. Being able to enjoy the very things you’re criticizing strikes
me as a fundamentally Western experience, and possibly a positive one.

But those who are quick to criticize America often seem unaware that America is not
some monolithic one-size-fits-all culture, but arguably the most multicultural society on
Earth. Thousands of things that we think of as American came from somewhere else:
Christmas trees, hot dogs and beer, denim. An elderly Indian professor of sociology
named Yogendra Singh understands this better than the boy in St. Petersburg.

“What is Western culture?” he asked as he sat barefoot in his New Delhi living room.
“There’s very little understanding of the diversity of Western cultures. But American
culture draws on so many other cultures. America could be the best example of how
cultures appreciate each other.”

Americans are so quick to adopt foreign food, phrases, clothing, that it may be hard to see
them as foreign for long. It has happened in India, too, a country with 25 states and more
than 400 languages. “The history of India is based on linkages with other cultures,”
professor Singh mused. “Even a local culture includes or incorporates elements from
other cultures. But over time memory plays tricks with associations of national identity.”

In other words, people forget where certain things came from, and they don’t care.
Americans say “ciao” and “glitch,” dance to salsa (and eat it too), drink vodka, and on
and on, but don’t think this makes them Italian, Jewish, Hispanic, Russian, or whatever.
We adopt elements of myriad immigrant cultures because they help us express ourselves
better. This, I think, is the essence of cultural interchange: not adopting foreign things
wholesale, but choosing them according to the values and ideas of your own culture.

“People complain about MTV,” a graceful Indian dancer named Tripura Kashyap told me
in Bangalore. “But the West is so much more than MTV. In Europe their minds are much
more free than ours. Western culture has made them into human beings that are so
confident, so outgoing. They’re more willing to take the risks to experiment. Here, we

don’t risk experiment.”

Tripura studied classical Indian dance as a child. A beautiful, historic art form, but one
that is also rigid and archaic. “I was very interested in moving away from traditional
forms, because they were very limiting,” she explained as we sat in the tranquil tropical
garden of my hotel. “I think if you want to express contemporary themes you need new

She went to Wisconsin to study dance therapy, and returned to Bangalore to form her
own dance company. Her style now includes traditional elements, an Indian martial art
called “chhau,” jazz, ballet, and modern dance.

“My parents really hate my dance,” she said with a smile, “they just can’t take it. But I
feel these cross-cultural influences are very important. The way I express myself now is
more authentic. It’s more me.”

The Russian boy with the sarcastic T-shirt has yet to discover what Tripura, Big Bird, and
most Americans already know: You can love your own country without having to
reject all the others. I am convinced that globalization will give us new ways not only to
appreciate other cultures more, but to look on our own with fresh wonder and surprise.

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