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Trade, technology and Xi Jinping’s question

13 0 0
09.07.2018

NEW YORK – “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping, quoting Charles Dickens’ famous line to open his speech at the 2017 World Economic Forum. “Today,” Xi continued, “we also live in a world of contradictions.” On one hand, “growing material wealth and advances in science and technology” have enabled unprecedented rates of development. On the other hand, “frequent regional conflicts, global challenges like terrorism and refugees, as well as poverty, unemployment and a widening income gap” are generating deep uncertainty.

Xi then posed a potent question: “What has gone wrong with the world?”

Perhaps the answer lies with the very technology that Xi regards as the key to China’s rise to high-income status. Specifically, it may be that we have reached a turning point in the march of technological progress — one that we are navigating very badly.

Technology has been shaping and reshaping our lives ever since early human beings discovered how to make tools from stone. It is only natural for such a long process to include moments when technological change generates unprecedented challenges.

One such turning point was the Industrial Revolution. In mid-18th century Britain, the revolution’s birthplace, progress entailed considerable adversity. Some workers toiled 12-14 hours per day, yet inequality surged. And the incidence of child labor rose beyond the levels........

© The Japan Times