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In China, It’s the 21st Century

by Kim Bellard, September 21, 2018

It is 2018 everywhere, but not every country is treating being in the 21st century equally. China is rushing into it, even in healthcare, while the United States is tip-toeing its way towards the future. Especially in healthcare: Let’s look at a few examples:

5G: You may just be getting used to 4G, but 5G is right around the corner, with U.S. carriers expected to start offering networks in a few cities by the end of this year. Meanwhile, China has committed to having national 5G coverage by 2020, and the government is working closely with its private sector to spur development. U.S. wireless trade association CTIA believes China is leading the 5G race. Deloitte agrees; in a recent report, they cite reasons why China is leading, and warn that countries that adopt 5G first “are expected to experience disproportionate and compounding gains in macroeconomic benefits caused by “network effect.”’

Artificial Intelligence: Yes, the U.S. has been the leader in A.I., with some of the leading universities and tech companies working on it. That may not be enough. A year ago China announced that it intended to be the world leader in A.I. by 2025. China is far outspending the U.S. on A.I. research and infrastructure, coordinating efforts between government, research institutes, universities, and private companies. Dr. Steven White, a professor at China’s Tsinghua University, “likens the country’s succeed at all costs AI program to Russia’s Sputnik moment.” We have yet to have that wake-up call.

Quantum computing: Don’t worry if you don’t understand quantum computing; no one does. What matters is that quantum computing is literally a quantum leap above what current computing, so the first to deploy it will have unimaginable advantages. Take a guess what country is leading. Paul Stimers, the founder of the U.S. Quantum Industry Coalition, told CNN: “They [China] have a quantum satellite no one else has done, a communications network no one else has done, and workforce development program to bring new Chinese quantum engineers online. You start to say, that’s worrisome.”

Genetic research: The U.S. has been the leader in genetic research, but — you guessed it — that lead has been rapidly diminishing. Earlier this year, Eric Green, the head of the National Human Genome Research Institute told Asia Times: I do know that if you look in the last 15 years, the investment in genomics, in particular, have been more substantial in countries like China, South Korea, Singapore, and even places like Brazil. For example, the U.S. is still doing research on techniques like CRISPR, but The Wall Street Journal found that China is “racing ahead” in gene editing trials, in large part due to a more relaxed attitude towards regulation and possible ethical considerations.

When it comes to healthcare, China recognizes shortcomings of its existing system, and is rapidly trying to deploy 21st century solutions to it. China adopted a universal healthcare system in 2011 (about the same time the U.S. adopted ACA.)

Last year Fortune reported on China’s healthcare “boom,” spurred in part due to direct government investments and favorable regulatory processes. Similarly, earlier this year The New York Times noted U.S. tech companies’ interest in healthcare, but pointed out that their Chinese counterparts had already jumped in.

I don’t want to live in China, nor would I want to get my health care there. Yet. But if we don’t soon have our own “Sputnik moment” (or moments), we’re going to see the 21st century of healthcare happen in China, not here.


This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

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