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本期原文选自The Economist 2016-9-17之Leaders板块A
giant problem,释义来自牛津高阶七版、元照英美拟词典、Lexisnexis英汉法例词典等资源。如果您吗在就学The

本期原文选自The Economist 2017-01-28的章In

A giant problem

Disruption may be the buzzword【1】 in boardrooms, but the most
striking feature of business today is not the overturning of the
established order. It is the entrenchment【2】 of a group of
superstar companies at the heart of the global economy. Some of these
are old firms, like GE, that have reinvented themselves. Some are
emerging-market champions, like Samsung, which have seized the
opportunities provided by globalisation. The elite of the elite are
high-tech wizards—Google, Apple, Facebook and the rest—that have
conjured up【3】 corporate empires from bits and

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【1】buzzword 流行词语

In retreat 

Global companies are heading home. And it’s not only because of the
threat of protectionism

AMONG the many things that Donald Trump dislikes are big global firms.
Faceless and rootless, they stand accused of unleashing “carnage” on
ordinary Americans by shipping jobs and factories abroad. His answer
is to domesticate【1】 these marauding【2】
multinationals. Lower taxes will draw their cash home, border charges
will hobble【3】 their cross-border supply chains and the trade
deals that help them do business will be rewritten. To avoid punitive
treatment, “all you have to do is stay,” he told American bosses this

【2】entrenchment 确立;trench 战壕

【1】domesticate 使喜爱家具,使精于家务,驯养,驯化;domesticated( adj.);

【3】conjure sth from sth 令人惊呆地开创出;conjure变魔术,变戏法

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【4】bits and

【2】marauding劫掠,打劫,猎食;marauder (n.)

As our special report this week makes clear, the superstars are
admirable in many ways. They *churn out**【5】 products that
improve consumers’ lives, from smarter smartphones to sharper
televisions. They provide Americans and Europeans with an estimated
$280 billion-worth of “free” services—such as search or directions—a
year. But they have two big faults. They are squashing competition,
and they are using the darker arts of management to stay ahead.
Neither is easy to solve. But failing to do so risks a
backlash【6】*** which will be bad for everyone.

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【5】churn out 大量生


【6】backlash 强烈反对,反冲

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More concentration, less focus

Bulking up【7】 is a global trend. The annual number of mergers
and acquisitions is more than twice what it was in the 1990s. But
concentration is at its most worrying in America. The share of GDP
generated by America’s 100 biggest companies rose from about 33% in
1994 to 46% in 2013. The five largest banks account for 45% of banking
assets, up from 25% in 2000. In the home of the entrepreneur, the
number of startups is lower than it has been at any time since the
1970s. More firms are dying than being born. Founders dream of selling
their firms to one of the giants rather than of building their own

Mr Trump is unusual in his aggressively protectionist tone. But in
many ways he is behind the times. Multinational companies, the agents
behind global integration, were already in retreat well before the
populist revolts of 2016. Their financial performance has slipped so
that they are no longer outstripping【4】 local firms. Many seem
to have exhausted their ability to cut costs and taxes and to
out-think【5】 their local competitors. Mr Trump’s
broadsides【6】 are aimed at companies that are surprisingly
vulnerable and, in many cases, are already heading home. The impact on
global commerce will be profound.

【7】Bulk up 增大


For many laissez-faire【8】 types this is only a temporary
problem. Modern technology is lowering barriers to entry; flaccid
incumbents will be destroyed by smaller, leaner ones. But the idea
that market concentration is self-correcting is more questionable than
it once was. Slower growth encourages companies to buy their rivals
and squeeze out costs. High-tech companies grow more useful to
customers when they attract more users and when they gather ever more
data about those users.

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The heft of the superstars also reflects their excellence at less
productive activities. About 30% of global foreign direct investment
(FDI) flows through tax havens【9】; big companies routinely use
transfer pricing【10】” to pretend that profits generated in
one part of the world are in fact made in another. The giants also
deploy huge armies of lobbyists, bringing the same techniques to
Brussels, where 30,000 lobbyists now walk the corridors, that they
perfected in Washington, DC. Laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley and
Dodd-Frank, to say nothing of【11】 America’s tax code, penalise
small firms more than large ones.

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【9】tax havens 避税地


【10】transfer pricing

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【11】to say nothing of 更不用说

The end of the arbitrage【7】

Multinational firms (those that do a large chunk of their business
outside their home region) employ only one in 50 of the world’s
workers. But they matter. A few thousand firms influence what billions
of people watch, wear and eat. The likes of IBM, McDonald’s, Ford,
H&M, Infosys, Lenovo and Honda have been the benchmark【8】 for
managers. They co-ordinate the supply chains that account for over 50%
of all trade. They account for a third of the value of the world’s
stockmarkets and they own the lion’s share【9】 of its
intellectual property—from lingerie【10】 designs to
virtual-reality software and diabetes drugs.

None of this helps the image of big business. Paying tax seems to be
unavoidable for individuals but optional for firms. Rules are
unbending for citizens, and up for negotiation when it comes to
companies. Nor do profits translate into jobs as once they did. In
1990 the top three carmakers in Detroit had a market
of $36 billion and 1.2m employees. In 2014 the
top three firms in Silicon Valley, with a market capitalisation of
over $1 trillion, had only 137,000 employees.


【12】market capitalisation 市值,市场资本化

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Anger at all this is understandable, but an inchoate desire to bash
business leaves everyone worse off. Disenchantment【13】 with
pro-business policies, particularly liberal immigration rules, helped
the “outs” to win the Brexit referendum in Britain and Donald Trump to
seize the Republican nomination. Protectionism and
nativism【14】 will only lower living standards. Reining
the giants requires the scalpel, not the


【13】disenchantment;disenchanted with sb/sth 不再获得幻想,失望

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【14】nativism 本土主义,排外主义

【9】the lion’s share (of sth) 最要命还是极好之同一客

【15】Rein in 严格控制,用缰绳勒马;rein缰绳

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That means a tough-but-considered approach to issues such as tax
. The OECD countries have already made progress in
drawing up common rules to prevent companies from parking money in tax
havens, for example. They have more to do, not least【18】 to
address the convenient fiction that different units of multinationals
are really separate companies. But better the grind of multilateral
negotiation than moves such as the European Commission’s recent
attempt to impose retrospective taxes on Apple in Ireland.

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【17】tax avoidance 避税(合法);tax evasion逃税,偷税骗税(非法)

They boomed in the early 1990s, as China and the former Soviet bloc
opened and Europe integrated. Investors liked global firms’ economies
of scale and efficiency. Rather than running themselves as national
fiefs【11】, firms unbundled【12】 their functions. A
Chinese factory might use tools from Germany, have owners in the
United States, pay taxes in Luxembourg and sell to Japan. Governments
in the rich world dreamed of their national champions becoming
world-beaters. Governments in the emerging world welcomed the jobs,
exports and technology that global firms brought. It was a golden age.

【18】not least 尤其


Concentration is an even harder problem. America in particular has got
into the habit of giving the benefit of the doubt to【19】 big
business. This made some sense in the 1980s and 1990s when giant
companies such as General Motors and IBM were being threatened by
foreign rivals or domestic upstarts. It is less defensible now that
superstar firms are gaining control of entire markets and finding new
ways to entrench themselves.

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【19】give the benefit of the doubt to sb / give sb the benefit of the

【12】unbundle 分门别类,分类

Prudent policymakers must reinvent antitrust for the digital age. That
means being more alert to the long-term consequences of large firms
acquiring promising startups. It means making it easier for consumers
to move their data from one company to another, and preventing tech
firms from unfairly privileging their own services on platforms they
control (an area where the commission, in its pursuit of Google,
deserves credit【20】). And it means making sure that people
have a choice of ways of authenticating their identity online.

Central to the rise of the global firm was its claim to be a superior
moneymaking machine. That claim lies in tatters【13】 (see
Briefing). In the past five years the profits of multinationals have
dropped by 25%. Returns on capital have slipped to their lowest in two
decades. A strong dollar and a low oil price explain part of the
decline. Technology superstars and consumer firms with strong brands
are still thriving. But the pain is too widespread and prolonged to be
dismissed as a blip【14】. About 40% of all multinationals make
a return on equity【15】 of less than 10%, a
yardstick【16】 for underperformance. In a majority of
industries they are growing more slowly and are less profitable than
local firms that stayed in their backyard. The share of global profits
accounted for by multinationals has fallen from 35% a decade ago to
30% now. For many industrial, manufacturing, financial,
natural-resources, media and telecoms companies, global reach has
become a burden, not an advantage.

【20】deserve credit 值得赞颂

【13】in tatters破烂不堪,破败的,坍塌的

1917 and all that

The rise of the giants is a reversal of recent history. In the 1980s
big companies were on the retreat, as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald
Reagan took a wrecking ball【21】 to state-protected
behemoths【22】 such as AT&T and British Leyland. But there are
some worrying similarities to a much earlier era. In 1860-1917 the
global economy was reshaped by the rise of giant new industries (steel
and oil) and revolutionary new technologies (electricity and the
combustion engine). These disruptions led to brief bursts of
competition followed by prolonged periods of oligopoly【23】.
The business titans of that age reinforced their positions by driving
their competitors out of business and cultivating close relations with
politicians. The backlash that followed helped to destroy the liberal
order in much of Europe.

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【21】wrecking ball 落锤破碎机,破碎球,这里是负拆分巨型企业


【22】behemoth 超级公司还是单位

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【23】oligopoly 卖方寡头垄断;近义词monopoly

【15】return on equity股权收益率,股本盈利

So, by all means celebrate the astonishing achievements of today’s
superstar companies. But also watch them. The world needs a healthy
dose of competition to keep today’s giants on their toes【24】
and to give those in their shadow a chance to grow.

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【24】keep sb on their toes 使某人保持警醒

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bits and bytes)建立了店铺帝国(corporate
say nothing
the benefit of doubt to big
a wrecking ball to state-protected

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* 注:本文就供就学交流的故,不意味着作者观点。

That is because a 30-year window of arbitrage is closing. Firms’ tax
bills have been massaged down as low as they can go; in China factory
workers’ wages are rising. Local firms have become more sophisticated.
They can steal, copy or displace global firms’ innovations without
building costly offices and factories abroad. From America’s shale
industry to Brazilian banking, from Chinese e-commerce to Indian
telecoms, the companies at the cutting edge【17】 are local, not

【17】cutting edge尖端,最前沿,优势

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The changing political landscape is making things even harder for the
giants. Mr Trump is the latest and most strident【18】
manifestation of a worldwide shift to grab more of the value that
multinationals capture. China wants global firms to place not just
their supply chains there, but also their brainiest activities such as
research and development. Last year Europe and America battled over
who gets the $13bn of tax that Apple and Pfizer pay annually. From
Germany to Indonesia rules on takeovers, antitrust and data are


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Mr Trump’s arrival will only accelerate a gory【19】 process of
restructuring. Many firms are simply too big: they will have to shrink
their empires. Others are putting down deeper roots in the markets
where they operate. General Electric and Siemens are “localising”
supply chains, production, jobs and tax into regional or national
units. Another strategy is to become “intangible”. Silicon Valley’s
stars, from Uber to Google, are still expanding abroad. Fast-food
firms and hotel chains are shifting from flipping burgers and making
beds to selling branding rights. But such virtual multinationals are
also vulnerable to populism because they create few direct jobs, pay
little tax and are not protected by trade rules designed for physical


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Taking back control

The retreat of global firms will give politicians a feeling of greater
control as companies promise to do their bidding【20】. But not
every country can get a bigger share of the same firms’ production,
jobs and tax. And a rapid unwinding of the dominant form of business
of the past 20 years could be chaotic. Many countries with trade
deficits (including “global Britain”) rely on the flow of capital that
multinationals bring. If firms’ profits drop further, the value of
stockmarkets will probably fall.

【20】to do sb’s bidding服从某人;bidding命令,吩咐,请求

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What of consumers and voters? They touch screens, wear clothes and are
kept healthy by the products of firms that they dislike as immoral,
exploitative and


. The golden age of global firms has also been a golden age for consumer
choice and efficiency. Its


may make the world seem fairer. But the retreat of the multinational
cannot bring back all the jobs that the likes of Mr Trump promise. And
it will mean rising prices, diminishing competition and slowing
innovation. In time, millions of small firms trading across borders
could replace big firms as transmitters of ideas and capital. But their
weight is tiny. People may yet look back on the era when global firms
ruled the business world, and regret its passing.

【21】aloof冷漠,冷淡;keep/hold oneself aloof, remain/stand

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the times)。跨国公司在2016年民粹主义反抗之前便已经急剧败退(in
to their lowest in two
the cutting
to do their




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