By Clay Chandler

Clay is an author, editor and fellow at Hult International Business School where he follows technology, economics and global business. He is a former Asia editor at McKinsey & Company, and has held senior editorial roles at Fortune, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter @claychandler

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The glory days of global corporate giants are over.

For nearly half a century, Western multinational corporations have dominated the global economy. The largest of these giants command resources exceeding those of many mid-sized countries. They raise billions of dollars in global capital markets, oversee sprawling operations spanning multiple time zones, draw top graduates from the best business schools, and reward their executives with lavish salaries and benefits.

But could the golden age of Western multinationals be drawing to a close?

A September 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute noted that, for the past three decades, large Western multinationals benefited disproportionately from an unusual combination of economic conditions: expanding global trade, the opening of vast new consumer markets, improved global infrastructure, lower borrowing costs, falling tax rates, and access to huge new pools of inexpensive labor.

But that confluence of happy circumstances is giving way to a new, more complicated reality, according to McKinsey – one that will favor newer, smaller, more nimble rivals. “The coming era is shaping up to be much tougher and less profitable” for Western multinationals, McKinsey warned. “The rules of the game are changing.”

At least three developments are driving the transformation. One is the rise of emerging market competitors, who are using lower labor costs and the massive scale of their home markets to muscle out Western incumbents in capital- and labor-intensive sectors such as autos, machinery, telecommunications, and construction.

Emerging market challengers tend to be leaner and quicker than established Western rivals. They are especially formidable competitors in their own markets and are increasingly edging out Western incumbents in third markets and squeezing established firms’ profit margins at home.

Could the golden age of Western multinationals be drawing to a close?

The second threat to global giants comes from technology firms in both developed and developing markets. Technology powerhouses like Amazon, Alibaba, Flipkart, and Rakuten have built sprawling platforms with the capacity to attract, in a matter of days or months, huge customer bases on a scale that not long ago could only be accumulated over decades. And many of these new tech platforms are enabling complex and shifting coalitions of smaller upstart ventures to nibble away at the market share of traditional multinationals like a swarm of hungry piranhas.

Politics may pose a third threat. Rising inequality has fueled resentment of large multinationals in rich and poor societies alike. Political leaders everywhere have grown wary of the idea of open borders and lower trade barriers. Meanwhile, increased geopolitical rivalry between the US and China now complicates cross-border trade and investment deals, not only between the world’s first and second largest economies, but in the rest of the world as well. In 2001, when the US reigned secure in its status as the world’s only superpower, then-president Bill Clinton was willing to expend political capital at home to fight for China’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization. Today, with China rising and the US uncertain of its global position, the two countries lead rival trade alliances excluding the other.

In China, foreign executives grumble privately that Beijing tilts the playing field to favor home-grown companies, and some complain of an orchestrated campaign to shut foreign companies out. Of the 500 American companies polled in the 2016 China Business Climate Survey Report conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce, 77 percent of businesses responding said they felt China had grown less welcoming to foreign businesses.

Should it matter to new business graduates if Western multinationals have passed their prime?

It depends. Graduates from developed economies will likely find fewer opportunities in emerging markets, particularly if they lack proficiency in local languages. But new graduates from emerging markets should find ample professional prospects in their home markets (provided they keep growing), not only at established Western multinationals, but also with homegrown firms.