Date: May 02 2012
CHINA is getting old. Already there are 8 million people aged more than 80 - and by some estimates, there will be 100 million Chinese octogenarians by the middle of this, the Asian century.
And though old age may bring brittle bones, there is a view that Australia's ties to China could benefit from a hip replacement. Half-a-million even.
That's how many operations Professor Stephen Leeder, director of Sydney's Menzies Centre for Health Policy, estimates will be needed in China each year by 2050 - offering Australia a unique chance to foster closer links with Beijing by helping China cope with the consequences of an ageing population.
Professor Leeder yesterday told former Treasury boss Ken Henry, who is drafting the Gillard government's forthcoming Australia in the Asian Century white paper, that Australia should spruik its medical expertise in the region and also take the chance to learn.
This would encompass not only aged care, but as China's economy grows, what he calls the ''unintended consequences'' of middle class, such as diabetes and heart disease.
''We know how to fix hips, we know what to do in terms of preventative strategies,'' Professor Leeder said. ''We've got a chance while these populations are ageing to put in place preventative strategies against the unintended consequences of middle-class affluence that could save them a motza.''
Professor Leeder and five academics were selected to meet Dr Henry, by the website The Conversation, as part of the government's attempt to engage the public in preparing the white paper.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will deliver a speech in Melbourne tomorrow at a Global Foundation conference - sponsored by The Age - where she is expected to outline progress ahead of the white paper's mid-year release.
A push for more Australians to study in Asian universities is one recommendation believed to be considered as part of the white paper deliberations.
Professor Leeder, who spent a year in Papua New Guinea in 1968 and has worked in India and China, said a scholarship program to bring doctors from the region and send Australians into the neighbourhood could improve ties.
Yuko Kinoshita, from the University of Canberra, told Dr Henry more language study was also needed, saying even those who struggled to speak a foreign language gained a better understanding of a country's culture.
University of Melbourne scientist Sally Gras urged more research co-operation with Asian countries to tap into burgeoning research and development budgets in the region.
Dr Henry said a theme that had emerged in the more than 250 submissions was not to see ''Asia'' as a single bloc but as countries with diverse cultures.
Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]