Chapter NineFlattener #6 – Globalization, Industrialization, and Urbanization

Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.

Kofi Annan

I remember my first trip to China as if it was yesterday. I was in my early twenties, living and working in London at the time, and starting to travel for business on a regular basis. It was easy to fall into the routine of the flight, work a bit, watch a movie, have a glass of wine, and sleep as much as possible, but this trip was special. I remember thinking to myself “in 10 hours I will be the first member in my family to ever set foot in China”. I had a sense of pride and responsibility, and kept thinking about my parents, their parents, and their parents' parents, and how proud they were that I was able to see parts of the world that they would probably never see with their own eyes.

Ten hours on a plane can be a long time, but for me, that day, it was not enough. As we cruised, I kept reminding myself that the same journey would have taken me ten days by train and several weeks by boat. I thought of Marco Polo, on his horse, and about his trips to China in the thirteenth century. The adventure of visiting remote cultures, the extraordinary physical effort subject to the inclemency of the weather, and the dangers of the unknown. But there I was, comfortably sitting on a warm plane, watching the freezing Russian steppes underneath, just a few hours away from Beijing's airport where a car would be waiting to take ...

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