When shareholders get a global voice

China doffs its snug, olive-drab Mao jacket for the colorful blazer of a free-wheeling exchange trader.

Who'd have guessed it?

If the thud of the Soviet state hitting the canvas signaled the triumph of capitalism over communism more than a decade ago, then last month's comments by Chinese leader Jiang Zemin mean there's not going to be a rematch.

Mr. Jiang reportedly cut loose in a closed meeting June 13 with remarks about the importance of stock markets in China for the country's economic prosperity.

It's only the beginning.

America may already be stock-market nation; Japan's Nikkei makes big waves; Europe has long had its bourses; and from Ghana to Bangladesh, stock markets of varying sizes are in full swing.

But now, advances in digital communications and the adoption of common trading standards have led to unprecedented cross-border dealings. It's the dawn of a global stock market.

Will there be complications? Sure. We've already watched stock prices fluctuate wildly thanks to the speculative moves of America's day traders. What happens if a band of novice investors in Guangdong province fires a wad of yuan at a dubious IPO in some key, but fragile, American sector?

Expect the ride to get wilder.

Still the spread of a socially responsible shareholder culture could ultimately serve mankind.

Just last week, workers at an Alabama factory run by Imerys, a French minerals and materials company, won union representation. They had pressed the issue at the firm's annual meeting in Paris. Media coverage of the event appears to have helped win French and US shareholders' support. Leverage worked.

*Reach us at work@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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