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2017
Asia Needs more Dialogue
Solutions to urban pollution may prove complex
Spread of ESGs could herald new global movement
Investing in quality education is imperative if India wants to reap demographic dividends
China needs to lead in new multi-stakeholder world
China’s B&R initiative leading a resurgence of Asia
Education is key - but long-term: Can we survive?
New wave of robots will be beneficial to all
China needs to continue with its ‘heavy lifting’
Time is right for Chinese firms to invest in Europe
Robots to the rescue for China?
Asian Multinationals are Going Global, But to Where?
China ratchets forward with energy efforts
China’s calm necessary for globalization push
Bridging managerial gaps involves trust-building
China well-placed to power its future through green technology advances
China's new 'springtime' is here
2016
China’s moves show it’s banking on the future
Mindset for action at the G20 summit will be determined by Chinese presidency
Chinese head-hunting intensifies for rare managers that can steer overseas firms
US talk of isolation jars with growing links in Europe and Asia
Electoral rhetoric on global trade not in sync with reality
Is it time to be prudent and consider austerity policies again?
What will we do if we have no oil?
Unlock talent by finding the right fit for a person
The benefits are real and tangible
Trade along China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ won’t succeed without the currency of trust
Reasons for optimism about the long term
2015
Can big oil go green and win?
Poorer Nations Could Sway Climate Talks
Combating Idleness and Deprivation
How China can be a model of food sustainability for the developing world
Kyoto II – Is it a Done Deal?
A meeting of the two largest economic powers
Why China will experience a 'soft' landing
Beware of superstitions
The Elephant and Dragon move ahead
G-7 target on fossil fuels raises many questions
Why Battle for Net Neutrality in the US Matters Globally
China’s resurgence – the ‘normal new’
Wanted: A managerial culture that embraces cultural differences
China's early education plan a smart investment in the future
The New Normal for China and India
2014
China's infrastructure push offers a sure track to better growth
US-China climate pact a good start, but not quite enough
Rethink the human’s place in the ‘digital revolution’
China springs a carbon surprise
Infrastructure - the invisible hand in full view
Dialogue vital for survival of Iraqi nation
China must nurture a new generation of beautiful minds
Great expectations in China and India
GM Cereals – The Pros and Corns
Time to be Honest about Our Energy Prospects
Weathering the Storm of Climate Change
Making a Big Decision? Beware of Your Biases
West Deserves Better Logistics Infrastructure
Digital Currencies do Represent the Future
From 'Printed' Houses to Wooden Skyscrapers
It’s time to bail out our schools, not our firms
Solution to India’s housing shortage – print new ones!
And the most promising green technologies of 2014 are ...
Transport infrastructure key to domestic, export growth
Oil stopgaps: Not worth risking
2013
Why the US should grant Edward Snowden amnesty
May we be more optimistic!
China headed for another massive social experiment?
A dialogue that worked
Yes, politicians deserve vacations - because we benefit
NPOs, NGOs invaluable as creators of dialogue
Look closer and ask: Is America reinventing itself?
Boston bombings case underlines need for dialogue
Millennium Development Goals or own goals?
As usual it's about balance - and timing - of course
Chinese strategists make right moves for growth
2012
Preparing for tomorrow
Austerity or growth?
Japan in danger of becoming 'just a place to fly over'
Beware of the business cycle?
An inconvenient truth
Limited offer sale: Buy a country
Where did our money go?
Leading from behind - a year of elections is almost over
Driving towards a green future
Waiting for springtime
Preserve or Perish
Startlingly similar Asia policy for Obama, Romney
Globalisation remains an irresistible trend
Google has the edge in smartphone war
U.S. Braces for China's Rise
Mankind’s General Scourge
The summer holidays are over and nothing has changed!
Put the hidden trillions to work
Making sense of India’s woes and wonders
Storm in a teacup!
Let’s give bad bankers a venue to admit their sins
News is about depth, not puff or velocity
Booming India, but too few toilets
Delayed Court decisions doesn't mean one may continue to play 'Great Game'
We need media to reflect on data and offer public a balanced view
Big polluters can lead in forging common purpose
The weighty issue of choosing a leader
EU-India Relations - Facing similar challenges
Educating with a goal
The Judicial Malaise
We are growing out, but not growing up
EU´s retrenchment enigma
Urbulence in the Eurozone and the effect on SMEs
Skolkovo May Help Russia to Diversify
Make things more effective
Tapping into the Commonwealth connection
Innovative models for public finance
Facebook revolution but Indian style
The feel-good factor
Asian investors - a private equity opportunity
India needs to be taller and stronger
China´s low sales volume...
Nations playing leapfrog
Shafts of sunlight
What webs we weave
As performers go to Davos, the circus steals the show
Can we control the politicians?
 
2011
Europe’s reminiscence
China firms should go for win-win in overseas ventures
Of procrastination...
Making sense of profiteering
Truth about financial mess must be laid bare
Small is also beautiful
China can help Europe with debt crisis
Excising the cancer of global corruption
Education, a critical asset
Arab uprisings set in motion forces of creative destruction
A new era of change
We must ensure better education for all
Beijing wary of bankrolling a lost cause
Asean's re-emergence as a local and global leader
Why India's Role in the Global Economy is Still Work in Progress
Its the leadership, stupid!
Reverse globalisation: The new buzzword
Robots to the rescue for China?
By Frank-Jürgen Richter
The Straits Times, March 21, 2017
 

A few years ago, the Western media was quite puzzled by China building many new towns apparently far from anywhere: now the same media is concerned to learn that China wishes to build some 400 new hospitals!

But let me offer an excuse of a sort - they do not understand China: China, the United States and Europe have almost the same surface area while China has a population of 1.4 billion, Europe 750 million and the US only 320 million.

China must look after its people - in fact all governments must do this, but China is a special case as its rural to urban migration is now in full swing, years after the rural depopulation of Europe and the US - hence the need for the new townships and all their services.

In March 2015, China's National Council unveiled its five-year plan for a national healthcare system that noted, despite a recent rapid growth in such care, it needed more health support of all types. By 2013, it had about 25,000 hospitals with over six million beds and there were over seven million clinic visits, growing by 7 per cent annually. The 2015-2020 plans called for a great increase in provision partly because of the need to service over 200 million elderly people by 2020: they call for a further five million beds.

Consider all the institutions needed in China's new towns - not only is there a need for hospitals and their staff, but schools, stations, airports and suppliers of services like phones, TV, electricity, water and so on. All need educated people to operate correctly, and their education demands time as well as an earlier supply of children with the necessary potential.

A doctor, perhaps the most extreme case, takes 18 years from birth to university entrance, another four or five years before graduation, and one or two more years under an apprenticeship scheme before being allowed to treat patients unsupervised. We have to wait about 25 years before a new child might become a doctor - and during that time span we have to assume the government, regional, and city planners were developing sufficient teaching capacity.

Is this reasonable - did China's People's Congress 30 years ago declare it was increasing doctor- training capacity in planned phases? I doubt it, as that would be forecasting beyond any imaginable future: not only by the Chinese government that does think long term, but anyone.

Once again winding back the clock, the decreasing price and increasing power of computers opened up the study of "Expert Systems" in the 1970s that blossomed in the 1980s. However, academics soon found that unlike the human brain, the computer "brain" could not make intuitive leaps, and the expert systems had to be confined to quite small domains of knowledge - though their ability to analyse tirelessly and accurately was soon lauded.

Academics also found it took a long time to elicit knowledge from a human expert to code into the computer. Now, with much larger and faster computer systems and different computing modes, they learn faster - for instance, Google Translate having been trained to work with Japanese and English, then Korean and English was found to be able, by itself, to successfully translate between Korean and Japanese.

A Google Research blog concludes that the computers seem to be self-developing linguistic semantics. However, not all of this is magic - there is still much human input needed, but the upshot is that while it may take a long time to train one robot, we can replicate and deploy it rapidly, whereas human education will not be hurried.

China is the largest purchaser globally of industrial robots - think of the assembly lines of cars, phones or footwear. Increasingly, these quite simple machines have been pressed into services demanding fine precision, such as operating inside the human body while being controlled remotely by a surgeon.

Of course, local staff are needed to care for the patient, but the rare skills of the surgeon can be presented digitally from anywhere, reducing overall specialist training needs.

Researchers are also finding that robots can be used in elderly care homes, not only to deliver medication on time to patients, but also to be the equivalent of a pet delivering love to a lonely patient: palliative care is increased without great need to employ more nurses.

Education in remote rural areas is also enhanced with the help of computers - so self-learning can take place without the need for as many teachers working face to face.

Robots therefore have great potential - to reduce the workers' needed to do dirty, dangerous tasks, reduce the staff needed on repetitive, boring assembly and to augment human skills when either strength or delicacy is needed.

Coupled with the computer's ability to analyse vast data quickly, robots can ostensibly make complex decisions, allowing us an easier lifestyle.

Given China's almost unique global situation - a very large and ageing population with a large national sovereign fund - it is possible the government can advance healthcare rapidly and provide a globally useful model for others to follow.

Leading in any sector is costly and time consuming, but I think China has the will to do this in healthcare. We already see in Hainan island large specialised villages with nearby hospitals being built to care for old people who wish to retire away from the winter chills of the north of the country.

But the overarching solution is the deployment of robots across all sectors. At present there is some resistance as staff do not wish to lose their jobs, but the same people will wish later to live a fulfilling life in retirement and will wish the robots work well.

To achieve this future, research and practice need to begin as soon as possible within China's long-term plans.

 

Frank-Jürgen Richter is founder and chairman of Horasis, a global visions community.

 


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