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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
West Deserves Better Logistics Infrastructure
By Frank-Jürgen Richter
Nikkei Asian Review, May 1, 2014
 

All roads lead to Rome, the expression goes. Of course, that depends where you are. When the Roman Empire was at its height, it had a web of roads radiating from its seat of power, Rome. The empire had conquered many surrounding territories and had left garrisons in those places to maintain control. These armies needed troop turnaround, weapons renewal and food. Today we would call this material logistics. This was made possible by well-built roads allowing an army to travel up to 30km a day; horse riders even moreso.

This advantage of good roads could be seen farther east as well. China had its silk roads from about 200 B.C. India had great roads serving its provinces. Still earlier, roads are evident in the Indus Valley from 4000 B.C. It seems that all great leaders in history understand the value of logistics, and that all their roads must lead to their capitals.

Many of these roads fell into disarray as the kingdoms and empires they served waned. Rising use of sea trade also made many roads less needed. Canals, too, became new inland roads in their own right. And in the early 1800s came the railways, which rapidly covered the globe. By 1860, India had 25,000km of track. The U.S. was connected from the Atlantic to the Pacific by 1869. The Trans-Siberian Railway was ready by 1905 -- the trans-Australian by 1917.

Grand road networks were not redeveloped or broadly integrated again until the mid-1950s, notably when the U.S. launched its interstate highway system, which by 2012 comprised 77,000km, second only to modern China. Europe holistically embraced a communications infrastructure policy only in the 1990s to link road, rail, short-sea shipping and telecommunications.

Ancient Rome's logistics systems helped trade, as free passage was made possible by having everything inside a single empire. This empire had a common taxation policy and army to guard trade routes. It was much the same for China back then, a point not lost on Genghis Khan a millennium later as he used many of the extant roads to quickly conquer the plains of Asia, from the Black Sea to the Pacific.

Much later, national leaders were fearful of allowing roads to pass freely from country to country. Differing railway gauges were even used to prevent neighbors from easily moving armies. Today, this decision of more than a century ago continues to be a headache for trade between Europe and Asia. Which crumbles first?

Roads in modern America, Europe and Asia, especially China, carry the bulk of the logistics load simply because trucks are the go-to transport from port to most places beyond -- especially where rail does not reach. China now has almost 100,000km of roads and 100,000km of rail.

As people become more affluent, they progress through owning bicycles, to scooters and then to cars. They use these machines to carry goods and themselves, increasing their trading range. This in turn clogs city roads. It is no wonder politicians tend to push for urban mass transport systems in some vein hope of turning back the clock to the cleanliness and openness of what the capitals used to feel like.

All roads lead to the capitals, and that has been the undoing of all big cities -- their very success creates more use of roads, which creates overwhelming congestion in the central city.

China has the only example of extensive transport growth happening right now. Many think tanks suggest there is a global trillion-dollar gap between current spending on communications infrastructure and what is needed to really make the systems work for the future. But economies in the West continue to sputter, and we might just find, like the Romans, that our modern systems will start to crumble and trade will suffer.

Dictating the future
A policy of putting off infrastructure upkeep is unwise, and it looks like China will become even more dominant as it pumps money into its development. It will be able to harness its human and material resources ever-more efficiently and then ship this outputs via its huge modern ports to sell to (lesser-developed) Western nations.

Somehow the financial short-termism in the West needs a rethink and more cash needs to be put in long-term projects. From these, a good revenue stream will result as the West better uses its roads, rail and waterways to maintain material health. Longer term risk-assessing needs to become more fashionable -- it has in China, but it has a strongly centralized government. Surely democracies ought to be able to realize the benefits of new communications systems without the decision being left to those who protest seeing it in their backyards.

 

Frank-Jürgen Richter is founder and chairman of Horasis, a think tank.


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