The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World

About the Book

A sweeping case that a new age of economic localization will reunite place and prosperity, putting an end to the last half century of globalization—by one of the preeminent economic journalists writing today

“This invaluable book is as bold in its ambitions as it is readable.”—Ian Bremmer, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Crisis


At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Thomas Friedman, in The World Is Flat, declared globalization the new economic order. But the reign of globalization as we’ve known it is over, argues Financial Times columnist and CNN analyst Rana Foroohar, and the rise of local, regional, and homegrown business is now at hand.
With bare supermarket shelves and the shortage of PPE, the pandemic brought the fragility of global trade and supply chains into stark relief. The tragic war in Ukraine and the political and economic chaos that followed have further underlined the vulnerabilities of globalization. The world, it turns out, isn’t flat—in fact, it’s quite bumpy.
This fragmentation has been coming for decades, observes Foroohar. Our neoliberal economic philosophy of prioritizing efficiency over resilience and profits over local prosperity has produced massive inequality, persistent economic insecurity, and distrust in our institutions. This philosophy, which underpinned the last half century of globalization, has run its course. Place-based economics and a wave of technological innovations now make it possible to keep operations, investment, and wealth closer to home, wherever that may be.
With the pendulum of history swinging back, Homecoming explores both the challenges and the possibilities of this new era, and how it can usher in a more equitable and prosperous future.
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Praise for Homecoming

“Fascinating . . . Powerful . . . [A] valuable [contribution] to the understanding of the trends toward regionalization.”Foreign Affairs

“Foroohar’s work here is equal parts journalism and visioning, offering a host of case studies of how we might produce and consume differently while simultaneously painting a picture of a more resilient and rooted economy. . . . As [Homecoming] spells out in vivid detail, we have our work cut out for us to bring the economy home.”The American Prospect

“In this deeply reported book, Foroohar offers a mix of lively on-the-ground tales and stimulating macroanalysis to explain how globalization and localization are changing business, finance, and our wider society. . . . A must-read.”—Gillian Tett, New York Times bestselling author of Anthro-Vision

“Foroohar has consistently been right on globalization. Homecoming explains how local manufacturing is becoming a solution for many communities around the world. The detailed reporting and interviews make for eye-opening and gripping reading.”—Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize laureate in economics

“The way we eat impacts everything in our world, and Homecoming is a thorough examination of not just the dire consequences but also the many hopeful possibilities contained in that simple truth.”—Alice Waters, New York Times bestselling author of Coming to My Senses

“By asking the fundamental questions of what matters and who matters, this book comes with some conditioned optimism about the future: Global cooperation is possible (and needed), but can yield positive social outcomes only if built on sound economic thinking that values community, sustainability, and equity. The road to this new form of capitalism is paved with books like Homecoming.”—Mariana Mazzucato, author of Mission Economy

“In this fascinating book, Rana Foroohar argues that the retreat from hyperglobalization is a fact—and a welcome one at that. Homecoming will change how you think of the world to come.”—Dani Rodrik, author of The Globalization Paradox

“Foroohar walks us through the fiasco of four decades of devotion to neoliberal economic theory that emerged from the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, leading to the inevitable global and internal imbalances we see today. Homecoming offers a truly comprehensive and vivid discussion of the aftermath and what we need to do to belatedly address these errors.”—Daniel Alpert, author of The Age of Oversupply

“Rana Foroohar understands what went wrong with America and how to make it right. In Homecoming she weaves it all together to show how to build a safer, cleaner, and more peaceful world. A visionary blueprint for a future that works for all of us.”—Barry C. Lynn, author of Liberty from All Masters
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One World, Two Systems

Years ago, during a reporting trip to Beijing following the 2008 financial crisis, I interviewed the CEO of a major European clean-energy company that was a market leader in China at the time. I asked the executive how he saw business going forward, and he said he felt optimistic—the company would be in fourth place within the next five years. I was startled. Why was falling from pole position to fourth place good news? And how could he be so precise about the future? Because, as the CEO told me, this is what Communist Party leaders had told him would happen as local competitors moved into the market.

A few years later, in 2013, I was in China again. I happened to be there right as the Edward Snowden story was breaking and as the world was digesting the whistleblower’s leaks of National Security Agency material that showed that the United States, the United Kingdom, and various other liberal democracies were regularly gathering surveillance data on citizens, often with the help of private technology and telecom firms. The American public in particular had been shocked—or, as Claude Rains’s character says in the movie Casablanca, “shocked, shocked”—to learn that the U.S. government and the private sector had shared such information.

During one of my interviews in Beijing, I broached the topic with a People’s Liberation Army general with whom I was discussing the potential for conflict between the two countries. At the time, the United States’ chief foreign policy problems were still in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. But I had been struck on another visit, to the U.S. Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu, by a heat map showing the locations of past, present, and possible future geopolitical conflicts. The red portions were moving inexorably from the Middle East to South Asia to the South China Sea, which is where the problems of the future seemed to lie. This struck me as a big and very underexplored story, given that most of what you could buy in Walmart had to make its way through the South China Sea to get to American consumers.

I asked the general (a woman, interestingly) what she thought about the Snowden leaks and the role of both the state and the private sector in the global economy and geopolitics. She smiled and said that most Chinese found Americans’ naïveté around such things surprising. “In China, there is no line between the country and the company.” The two were one and the same, and the latter would always be in service to the former.

These were among the many reporting moments I’ve had in China over the last two decades that made me wonder why U.S. policy makers and corporate leaders ever thought that China would miraculously take its place in the existing world order and trade system. At the time that I was having these conversations, much of the world—certainly, China—was understandably questioning the wisdom of laissez-faire, Anglo-American-style capitalism and unfettered free trade in the wake of the financial crisis. Yet policy makers in the West were still pretending that the world would reset to the mid-nineties. CEOs of large companies were willfully blind to the risks of supply chain problems and market access in China, where a new Great Power conflict with the United States clearly loomed and where the rules of the market game could, in its state-run system, change at any time. There was also a general level of arrogance on the part of the West in relation to China that I found puzzling. Why would such a large nation, with its own long history, rich culture, very different political system, and enormous market, not create its own rules as it retook its historic place on the world stage? Remember that for much of recorded history, China and India, not America, vied for the top spot as the world’s largest and most powerful economy. That’s important to remember now, because as they rise once again, the decisions that these countries make will be just as influential as anything that might happen in the United States. China’s decision, for example, to decouple itself completely from U.S. and Western economic control over the next few years is a crucial part of the story of deglobalization.

China’s most recent five-year plan released by the state codified what was already common practice: via the One Belt, One Road infrastructure and lending program, the nation would become independent of Western technology and supply chains by 2025 and would build its own regional trade routes, remaking and expanding the old Silk Road of Marco Polo’s time, a pathway that stretched from China to Europe. China would lend to emerging markets, cut its own trade deals in its own currency, buy up farmland and ports, and generally become more self-sufficient and independent of the United States. The Belt and Road Initiative, combined with a host of new trade deals in Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East, would make it easier for China to grow its exports to places other than the United States. Decoupling and regionalization, not a reset of globalization, was the new norm.

The economic decoupling of America and China and, more particularly, the trade war and new cold war between the two nations are sometimes thought of as a result of the misguided policies of the Trump administration. In fact, the conflicts between the two countries and their systems were there long before, hiding in plain sight. The idea that more trade would always be good for the United States has been dogma for the last half century, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Even if deals were cut with countries that had completely different national goals and political systems, these agreements, we were told by political leaders of all stripes, would inevitably make us safer and richer. But the downsides to globalization—which range from the loss of important jobs and skill sets, to the vulnerabilities of complex and far-flung supply chains and financial networks, to the fact that China wasn’t, in fact, becoming freer as it got richer—were papered over for decades.

The only good thing that the Trump administration did economically was to stop pretending that the One World, Two Systems problem, as foreign policy wonks call it, didn’t exist. While President Trump had no coherent strategy for countering the rise of China (and was actively supportive of Chinese allies like Russia), and while his vitriolic rhetoric didn’t help the United States, the last four years did at least bring an end to the absurd Kabuki act on the part of U.S. policy makers and corporate executives regarding the reality and intractability of the China challenge. No matter how tempting that next quarter of growth in the Chinese market might be, there are no guarantees that the playing field will be fair or that the rules won’t change at any time—particularly in the most strategic high-growth sectors.

It was a terrible irony that it took Donald Trump to lift the veil on the hypocrisies of the One World, Two Systems problem, even as his own policies contributed to the challenge. Like the protagonist in Herman Melville’s final novel, The Confidence-Man, Trump was able to embed a single, visceral truth in a welter of falsehoods. So it was with the U.S. president’s anti-free-trade stance. He often couched it in terms that were xenophobic, nationalistic, or just factually wrong, but the criticism that Trump (and, later, President Joe Biden, who has continued much of the trade stance set by the former administration) leveled against China and, to a lesser extent, other nations engaging in unfair trade practices is getting at something profound. Many people simply do not believe that the current system of globalization is working in their favor. As the current U.S. trade representative under President Biden, Katherine Tai, put it in March 2022 at a presentation before the House Ways and Means Committee, “The problem that we are confronted with today—after two years of the pandemic and also Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—is that this version of globalization that we are living in has not taken us to a place where we feel more secure. We are feeling increasing senses of insecurity in terms of our supply chains and our reliance on partners who we aren’t comfortable relying on.” In fact, even before the events of the last few years, only about one in three people in rich countries believed that trade increased wages. Meanwhile, those in emerging markets are even more dubious about trade’s impact on prices; a median of 18 percent believes it lowers them according to a 2018 survey.

These feelings are what drives politics, but there are facts to back them up. Pricing has been driven down by unfettered globalization, but jobs in many places have been lost. This has led, in turn, to a highly bifurcated workforce and economy in hard-hit areas. Think of the wage pressure on labor in many rich countries or of the terrible working conditions for many of those in poor countries as companies use “free” trade to try to raise their own margins at the expense of all else.

Of course, one can’t ignore the statistical links between freer trade and economic growth in the postwar period: the two have gone hand in hand at a global level as more countries have entered the capitalist trade system. But given this, how does one account for these negative views of globalization?

About the Author

Rana Foroohar
Rana Foroohar is the author of Don’t Be Evil, which won a Porchlight Business Book Award, and Makers and Takers. Currently the global business columnist and associate editor for the Financial Times and the global economic analyst for CNN, she has served as the assistant managing editor and economic columnist at Time and an economic and foreign affairs editor and foreign correspondent at Newsweek. Rana Foroohar is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and sits on the board of the Open Markets Institute. More by Rana Foroohar
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