This introductory chapter provides an overview of what global value chains (GVCs) are, and why they are important. It presents a genealogy of the emergence of GVCs as a concept and analytical framework, and some reflections on more recent developments in this field. Finally, it describes the chapter organization of this Handbook along its five cross-cutting themes: mapping, measuring and analysing GVCs; governance, power and inequality; the multiple dimensions of upgrading and downgrading; how innovation, strategy and learning can shape governance and upgrading; and GVCs, development and public policy.
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Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert
Since the 1980s it had been fashionable to suggest that there was little that individual countries could do in the face of global economic forces, and any attempt to pursue independent policies would be doomed to failure. ‘Even China’, it was often said, was embracing the global free market. The idea that developing countries, such as India, could promote their own developmental interests by sheltering behind exchange controls or national planning had been swept away along with the Berlin Wall. In the globalized economy of the twenty-first century, it was argued, national governments had to go with the flow of global markets. As the 2008 international financial crisis was breaking, the global strategy firm Oxford Analytica held one of its usual daily analysis sessions, but open to those attending its annual conference. The chair briefly summarised the unfolding global crisis, and then went round the table asking the various national experts to report. Despite the consensus referred to above, the reports did not paint a picture of a uniform globalised market to which each country related in the same way. The US and UK had been referred to in the opening statement, being very much at the centre of whatever it was that had caused the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. But when the expert on Brazil was called, he reported that the socialist President Lula had kept its financial sector rather independent of the global markets. Next India, and here too it was reported that it actually hadn’t opened itself up to the global market quite as much as might have been thought. Then China, where, it was reported, the Communist Party had maintained rather a firm grip.