Sure, today it sounds like some kind of a joke.
But there are early signs that this may indeed be the case. After all, these are two huge issues which are, shall we say, pretty serious matters in China today? Yet there are early signs that point to China, or Chinese companies, possibly being able to take a lead in fixing some of the problems created by rampant development over the past thirty years.
Chinese companies have played a role in mapping out the human genome project, and have recently sequenced the first Asian genome in Shenzhen. Worldwide, 2007 has been a banner year in helping our understanding of the genome and how diseases are transmitted and/or inherited.
With its rapidly aging population, the Chinese government has a special incentive for taking care of its population and keeping them working well past retirement age. This is especially important for people with rare or special skills.
Everyone knows that the environmental situation is a mess because of massive overbuilding and inefficient industries which are manufacturing just to keep their doors open. As oil prices go up, the Chinese government has a special interest in developing new non-petroleum alternative energies which produce no or very few hydrocarbons, and do not affect the environment badly as some of the current technologies.
A few companies have already started to develop new products, but the market is still young.
On the government side, the Chinese government is already taking an active role in cleanup, as evidenced by its plan to clean up Lake Tai. I believe that in the next 10 years the government will take steps to retire or roll back the Three Gorges Dam, as the project is already being openly criticized in government publications. Premier Wen Jiabao has been the main spokesman for environmental causes in the Chinese government, and he has personally staked his reputation on cleaning up the Chinese environment.
Since the Chinese government has put its reputation behind healthcare and the environment, my belief is that these two fields will become as important to this generation as computer hardware and software were for the previous generation. Many of the breakthroughs which are now occurring in these two fields have been made possible by IT breakthroughs.
Besides, the smart money is already going there…