China – 2

(Though some of this article is the same as an earlier blog, this is all my thoughts, and also includes a Christian reflection.)

In the 19th and previous centuries, the European powers, mainly the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, were conquerors of many parts of the world.  In many cases, it started of with trade, but then became bigger through political ambitions of power, often in a race with other European nations.  Japan and one or two others did the same, but on a smaller scale.  This often brought misery to the conquered countries through slavery, exploiting their resources and disease, which killed millions of locals.

Then, in the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries onwards, the USA, and to a certain extent, the EU countries, sought to control countries through unfair trade agreements, usually in favour of multi-nationals.  (They also stationed troops in key bases around the world, usually operating without the country’s consent, especially the USA and France, through bribery.) Of course, the USA, aid and abetted by the UK and other countries, supported anti-communist revolutions, which often led to dictatorships.The USSR came into the picture through its desire to spread communism, controlling countries through making sure they followed the dictates of Moscow, and putting down resistance violently (eg Hungary).

Although China has not done quite the same as Russia, despite it taking over a number of countries like Tibet, its influence has been growing in very subtle ways.  First, although still staunchly communist, it has allowed the free market to exist, within certain limits (mainly through partnerships with local businesses, many of whom are controlled by the State or members of the Communist Party).  But, its ambitions are bigger than that.  It is all part of its ‘Silk and Belt’ road initiative, which is loosely based on trade along the so-called ‘Silk Road’, linking China with Europe, brought into focus by the travels of Marco Polo during the Middle Ages.

A lot of it has been China financing various infrastructure projects, either through loans or grants which tie the country to them.  (For examples, see the following article – http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-is-belt-and-road-china-infrastructure-project-2018-1/#britain-isnt-part-of-belt-and-road-and-its-stance-is-unclear-prior-to-her-trip-to-china-uk-prime-minister-theresa-may-refused-to-formally-endorse-the-project-and-said-it-would-only-contribute-to-global-growth-if-it-was-well-implemented-15 ) It has also led to many non-Chinese businesses getting contracts which form a large part of their earnings, so they also become tied to China.

It is also investing in many key companies around the world, especially in energy, transportation, hotels, electronics and a few other sectors.

Then there is the building of key military bases.  For example, it has built one in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa, which is at the bottom end of the Red Sea, through which many ships pass through with their commodities, including oil. (France and the USA, also have bases.)  It has also built one in the middle of the South China Sea, in area disputed by many countries, claiming the islands on which it has been built and according to the UN is in international waters.  I am sure there will be others in the future (with one in the Pacific near Australia??)

Back home, the President of China has made himself as life president, and so his teachings are now ‘gospel’, like Mao was all those years ago.  This has the blessing of the non-democratic Party Congress.  So, the country has almost become a dictatorship.

So, where does this leave the rest of us.  Basically, to me anyhow, China is setting itself up to control the various parts of the world in ways people will not notice (see above).  In China itself, things are intensifying with imprisonment and re-education camps for those who do not follow the Communist Party line (including Christians and the peoples of west China like the Uyghurs and Tibetans .  It also goes further, through the intensive use of surveillance equipment, and the implanting of Communist Party officials to live with families in their homes!  Will this become the norm in other countries that has Chinese influence, as well?  It is interesting though, China has only focussed on east Africa, some western African countries, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States.  ( https://chinapower.csis.org/china-foreign-direct-investment/ ) Will it spread to other parts of the world?

So, we the public need to be aware of the bigger picture of the activities of various countries, multinationals, and the defence industry as they jostle for power and the desire to make millions, all at the expense of the man in the street.

Whilst the various secular political and economic philosophies vie for control of the world, using many different methods, what can we as Christians do about it and why bother?  First of all, the world is the Lord’s, including everything in it, and so there is a responsibility for us to look after it, as well as to advocate for when this does not happen.  And in particular, every human being is special to God and should be to us, for He gives them dignity and worth.

One of the key things to remember is that we are involved in a spiritual battle for the very soul of the world. So, prayer is essential, but it needs to be informed prayer (thus the importance of reading and researching about what is going on throughout the world) – general prayers are no good – and ones led by the Holy Spirit for discernment as there is so much untruth or bias, even among Christian sources.

With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we need to seek how we can make a transformative difference to people, communities, government policies and conflict.  Hence the importance of meditating on the Scriptures to make sure our contribution has a distinctive biblical response, based on God’s love working through us. (See Matthew 28:18-20)

Any comments?

 

The National Health Service – 1

So, the NHS is 70 this year (2018)?  It is an amazing institution with thousands of dedicated and hard working staff, from consultants to general practitioners, from administrators to cleaners and a whole host of other people.

I have been a recipient of their services many, many times over the years and I am grateful for their assistance.  But, as demand increases and the rate of innovations multiplies, along with rising costs, it is creaking at the seams.  Staff are overstretched and running it gets more and more bureaucratic.

It is about time that a ‘root and branch’ review is undertaken.  I understand there has been a number of reviews, but they ended up being half measures.  Then there is the debate about the gradual privatisation of the NHS and the implications as to whether the service can continue to be basically free.  I would like to suggest that a Royal Commission is set up with its membership coming from the professional bodies, trade unions, practitioners, patients, the public, financial specialists, scientists, policy bodies, faith groups and others to make sure it is inclusive and truly representative of UK citizens.  And the public from throughout the UK and beyond is encouraged to submit their constructive suggestions to improve the NHS. As regards its remit, this will need to be comprehensive to make sure it is fit for the future.

Areas to be covered include the following:

What should the NHS be doing and not doing? (For example, should its only focus be on preventative, ‘healing’ people from illness and disease? As part of that, should social care and others come completely under the NHS? Should procedures like IVF be done in the NHS, or even abortion?  Should Hospices become part of the NHS?)

How should the NHS be organised? (Should the current Trusts and other structures continue – are they the most efficient way of co-ordinating services and facilities?  Do we need so many ‘bodies’ like NHS England, Commissioning Trusts, etc?  Are there more efficient ways for undertaking the administrative side of things? How much of the NHS could be put into the community, like General Practitioner Medical Centres?  To help patients be more in control, what is the role of self-recovery, doing things at home and community support?)

How many and what staff does the NHS require? (For example is the current structures suitable?  Are there quicker and better ways for training staff (so as to speed up the process of getting them working (without compromising standards)) other than what is currently on offer, making it easier for transferring between disciplines? How can pay, conditions and personal development be vastly improved to encourage better work/life balance and retention?)

How can the NHS improve its use of technology? (For example, better integrating patient records and getting them onto easily accessed computers, using software that is intuitive?  How do we make sure that Data Protection is made more secure to prevent hacking or abuse by staff, without making things complicated?  How do we make sure that entries made in patients’ records are easily understood by everybody who needs to know, including the patients themselves? How can technology be ‘joined’ up without the system ‘overheating’ (like a previous system did)?)

What can be done to improve the stay in hospital or the visit to community facilities? (For example, the design of the wards to improve privacy and noise, procedures used to improve efficiency and help patients have a more restful time from entry to discharge, time in the wards and operating wards (and to also facilitate reducing waiting times for any actions like operations when in hospital), to follow up (like discharge into a care home?  And what about the overall design, including the signage of the buildings used, as well as where facilities are located to make it easy for staff and patients to access without travelling far (from where they live and within the buildings)?  How are the transport links to be improved  and to better cope with disabled and others who are ill, making sure that staff manning such facilities are trained to enable such passengers to get the best of the journey, thus reducing stress?

How best to fund the NHS? (For example, should there be a revision of the taxations system so that money for the NHS and Social Care is ring-fenced? How can the NHS get better prices for the medications and equipment it buys?  How can it make sure there is proper funding for specialist treatment, including medication, and for encouraging innovation and ethical research?  Who should decide on how the money is used, both nationally and locally?  How do we improve the huge amount of waste, without compromising hygiene?  What about making all facilities self-sufficient in their energy use?)

Who decides what is ethical and sustainable in procedures, research, use of treatment, etc? (For example, who how does one decide on what is ethical – professionals, faith groups, philosophers, public opinion, etc?  How is that managed to make sure everyone keeps to ethical and professional standards, and what to do if they are not)

What is the role of the private sector, if any, and what do we mean by the term? (Should there be private hospitals?  How do we make sure anyone practicing privately in the area of health is properly monitored and is professionally and ethically trained and registered?  What about how they should be covered from an insurance point of view?

What about health and safety? (Are buildings designed to facilitate quick evacuation in the event of a fire or other incident (including whether buildings should be higher than two to three stories? Are procedures under the various Health and Safety at Work Act and other legislative and NHS procedures clearly followed by staff?  Should there be others, and can they be all integrated and clearly understood in Plain English?

I am sure there are other areas that I have not mentioned.  So you can see there is more than money needed to make the NHS ‘fit for purpose’ for the next 70 years and beyond.  Hopefully, this may encourage a wider debate, including how we can also use lessons from overseas, and ‘export’ what we do to other countries to help their citizens live long and healthy lives (including staff exchanges and voluntary support in emergencies in crisis areas).

Any comments welcome.