MFM E-Letter December 2009 Issue 6

The World Beyond 2010?

Bells jingle in white snow,
Amidst songs of angels from afar.
Ah, the joy of peace,
Heralding a new era in the East.
Let us be merry in this holy night,
Be happy in the New Year afresh.
May our earth vibrate in harmony,
A glorious symphony,
With no greed, no suffering, just pure snow…
Melting into tranquillity.
Above pink blossoms is the blue sky,
The white doves of this little globe,
Fly, fly high towards the heavenly rainbow,
Towards the world of one dream,
And infinite hope….

When Thomas S. Kuhn refers to the differences between paradigm shift and normal science[1] he is thinking about the development of scientific theories similar to the transition from Newtonian to quantum mechanics that evoke many debates on nature and the laws of physics. Our understanding of nature has seen paradigm shifts from Galileo to Newton then to Einstein and Planck’s quantum physics that developed into the Standard Model, String Theory and Branes. Human knowledge is constantly developing just as human civilizations. What will the world be like beyond 2010 after the current economic crisis? There are many factors which could be taken into account in assessing the future, but one important feature of these factors will be a fundamental shift in our social, economic and knowledge systems which we could sum up as a “historical change of paradigm”.

[1] The Structure of Scientific Revolution (Third Edition) – Chapter V: The Priority of Paradigms.

What are the fundamental forces that will change our world? I would like to take this opportunity to give it some thought as the year ends, as a light hearted seasonal gesture in thinking aloud with friends, or shall we call it “brainstorming”?

From an economic point of view most experts expect a shift of momentum to the East as the engine for future economic growth. While China is stimulating its domestic consumption, the West is repairing its financial institutions by continued government stimuli. The recent interventions of free market forces by governments are contrary to the principle of free market capitalism. On one hand we preach free market competition and on the other hand support is given to the collapsing banks and financial institutions with huge sums of public money which is unfair to companies that manage affairs properly to survive in the market. Such governmental interventions are contradictory to the basic principles of a market economy. Free market movement of goods and labour is also ironically contradicted with incidents of protectionism, narrow national interests and restrictive regulation. Increasingly we are facing a barrage of unnecessary regulations that restrict human creativity and discourage entrepreneurship. In the post-financial crisis, world, regulatory regime will be further tightened for the financial sector resulting in the non availability of capitals for the SME sectors which are traditionally the creative part of the real economy. Speculation, in terms of property, stock market and the creation of credit accompanied with complicated financial products mystify even the bankers and financial experts, let alone laymen like us. The consumers who are encouraged to live now and pay later are the last ingredients to this gigantic bubble that has finally burst in 2008 and 2009. Are we going to have a double dip in 2010 or are we recovering from recession and returning to growth after the quantitative easing of government stimuli? How will the governments of the world pay for the trillions of dollars that are poured into the financial institutions to prevent it from collapsing? We cannot simply print money and forget about it. In my previous e-letter ‘Taking Pulse of the Global Economic Crisis’ (February 2009) I argued for the injection of the trillions of dollars into the real economy such as the SMEs rather than the toxic banks. Using Chinese medicine diagnosis I suggested that in order to deal with the symptoms of deficiency, a physician needs to look at the root causes of this deficiency and stimulate the organs that the body will rely on for fundamental recovery rather than waste our energy on curing symptoms. Following this train of thought I can foresee further crisis ahead until we give the patient the correct treatment. World economic recovery will be sluggish and there will be no clear direction until the real economy finds strength to create concrete wealth and jobs rather than capital speculation. Even at this moment, the world stock markets recovery is fuelled by the “saved” banks speculating in the financial markets with injected public money. This is also true in China, increasing stock market value and property speculations are developing into a bubble that might cause the next financial crisis. We have not learned our lessons yet.

Beyond economic concerns, we should look at the social issues that are facing the world beyond 2010. As the jobless population in many countries are rising and the momentum of the shift of balance heads towards the East, we may find social instability and international tension are on the increase. The world therefore should promote a spirit of harmony, mutual collaboration and common interests to prevent these issues becoming the next global crisis. It is not enough for the leaders of the world to meet occasionally at the G20 and other summits, we need to encourage fundamental exchanges in ideas, culture, education at the human level besides business and economic collaborations. We should find ways of balancing the have and the have nots in this world and prevent economic and cultural domination by one country. Regional colours should be encouraged within the globalized world on the principle of parallel development and multi-lateral interactions, very much like the infinite creative forces expressed by the Chinese concept of Yin Yang interactions.

Equally important are the environmental issues of global warming, pollution, the energy crisis and the shortage of water, natural resources and food for our future sustainability. These are urgent concerns facing the brave new world in the post-economic crisis era. 2010 may mark the beginning of the process of change towards a new world order. The development of science and technology in the past 200 years or so has given us the belief that we can conquer nature despite thousands of years of past wisdom in living with nature. Perhaps in the past we did not have the science and technology to interfere seriously with the forces of nature. We now have many toys in the forms of atomic weapons, carbon dioxide generators such as cars, planes and factories producing chemicals. We can now radically alter the ways of nature, but the ideology of conquering nature is now giving us negative consequences resulting in the looming environmental problems. People are now thinking of carbon footprints, organic food, natural products in a move “back to nature”. This indicates to me that the world beyond 2010 could become one that lives in harmony with nature in order to solve many of the problems in our environment.

The current H1N1 epidemic is a powerful reminder of the forces of nature. Many of my medical meetings in Beijing have been cancelled or postponed until next year. I predict that governments around the world will response dramatically with mass vaccination. Again treating the symptoms rather than the root causes. The fundamental issues with global health problems are centred around international collaborations and medical integration. While the experts are arguing on evidence and the governments are deliberating on regulations, patients are dying unnecessarily. We need an effective international healthcare system and an integrative approach to medicine now! Bias, close-mindedness and pharmaceutical interests are preventing this from happening. Take for instance, the implementation of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicine Registration (THMR) Directive (2004/24/EC) in April 2011, which will mean further restriction in consumer choice with the future demise of Chinese medicine in the EU if a compromise is not to be found. This applies to all traditional medicines and herbal supplements. Chinese herbal medicine in a multi-ingredient compound form of over 4 herbs cannot pass the four EMEA experiment tests required for licensing. The consequence of this law will not only be the denial of the benefits of Chinese medicine and other traditional medicine to the European public, but also damage east-west relations. This is a good example of the current situation in our troubled world, with good meaning people doing the wrong thing!?

Being a man of medicine, I encountered over the past thirty odd years many hypocritical arguments on the subject of East-West medicine integration from both sides of the camp. According to a recent BMJ report, only 13% of western “evidence based medicines” are beneficial, with 10% unlikely to be beneficial or likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 46% with unknown effects. How can western medical experts justify themselves in demanding evidence from Chinese medicine?

I think open-mindedness and respect for other traditions are essential ingredients for a harmonious world. We may disagree, we can debate the issues, we can even accept our differences, but we must respect each others’ interests and traditions. Hopefully, countries of the world will learn to live with each other without resorting to violence or self preservation regardless of others. Is this too noble to expect from human nature? I live in hope…

The extravagant consumer society may be a thing of the past. Excessive consumption and waste may give way to a search for quality rather than quantity. The quality of living that concerns every one of us means maintaining personal health and wellbeing. In the past we looked towards outer space, but now I can envisage people of the world beyond 2010 being more inward looking on issues such as health, happiness and personal development, just like physicists looking inwards into the sub-atomic world of particles in Planck’s scale of energy and distance. Some people may be thinking of their personal life with their individual or family needs being satisfied. Some people may be looking beyond their physical wellness of being fed and having some fun to consider the meaning of their existence. And this is exactly the sort of world that is emerging that will enable most of us to consider a conscious being rather than a purely physical economic pursuit in life. With advances of regenerative medicine and regulative medicine (such as Chinese medicine) people will have increased longevity to consider their consciousness and emotional wellbeing.

We are now a hundred years since Einstein revealed his special and general theories of relativity; with the advance of Max Planck’s quantum theory, the shift of paradigm in our knowledge is only beginning to be felt in general terms. The holistic relation between the outer world of universe or multiverses and the inward world of sub-atomic particles is now considered by pioneering scientists around the world. When Michio Kaku and Lisa Randall, both Harvard physicists, talk about hidden dimensions and parallel universes they also mention the atomic interactions within our body. “The ‘objective reality’ of Einstein is an illusion created by the fact that we have so many atoms in our body each one bumping into others, each time narrowing the number of possible universes. It’s like looking at an out-of-focus image through a camera. This would correspond to the microworld, where everything seems fuzzy and indefinite. But each time you adjust the focus of the camera, the image gets sharper and sharper. This corresponds to trillions of tiny collisions with neighbouring atoms, each of which reduces the number of possible universes. In this way, we smoothly make the transition from the fuzzy microworld to the macroworld.”[2] The leading quantum physicists are looking at a theory of everything by exploring the relationship between the miniuniverse of our body and mind and indeed of all matters in relation to the outer universe. How a small change in an atom could have consequences in the larger scale of the universe is fascinating and fundamentally changing our concept of life and existence. Theoretical physicists are now changing our perceptions not only in other disciplines such as biology, chemistry or medicine but also in the way that we view our existence and consciousness.

[2] Michio Kaku, Physics of the Impossible – pg 248

This leads me to the fascinating subject of human consciousness. While I agree with the neural physiologists’ discovery that the plasticity of the brain reacts to internal and external stimuli by changing itself, I also firmly believe that the state of our consciousness forms an important part in the future determinations of our society. Human intellect and emotions are powerful factors in determining the future. I believe that culture is the mass manifestation of a common nature formed by collective experiences or neural plasticity in the mind of a community, nation or civilization. The world beyond 2010 will be affected by the state of our confidence, the powerful factor of our positive consciousness expressed in hope, our determination to progress and our passion for life. A global consciousness without greed will emerge with freedom and democracy in perfect balance, with responsibilities and mutual respect. This is a lofty dream of a harmonious world beyond 2010, beyond the economic crisis and beyond the confrontation of East and West, beyond the inequalities between the Third World, emerging nations and the advanced countries.

“The global credit system is in a state of paralysis and a global slump is building momentum as I write this. Reform of the weaknesses that made this crisis is essential, but it can wait a little while. First, we need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policy makers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending.”[3] When I read Paul Krugman’s work ‘The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008’ I can clearly see that his advice is being taken and acted upon by world leaders including Obama. But how many of these leaders will pause to think that abundant credits encourage speculations and excessive spending encourage people to live beyond their means. These are the precise reasons that created the current financial bubble, the bursting of which has caused misery for the majority of people who prefer hard work rather than speculations. I could not help but to remind the Nobel Prize winner in economics that he has ignored the powerful energy of the people in the non-financial world that creates real wealth. The passion and hope of our hard-working population for their survival and their children’s future are the determining factors in an economy without bubbles. They are the ones that deserve most of the available trillions to spur the real recovery instead of the black hole of the toxic banks. The world then will be ensured of a bright future.

[3] Paul Krugman The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 – pg.184

When winter ends spring will come, as the snow melts, flowers will bloom. The green shoots of life will blossom once again on earth. While the West Hills are full of fragrance, the Eastern Sea is harmonious, our people’s living will be enhanced by elegance. The little globe will reveal the true meaning of life……

Greetings from Man Fong Mei (梅万方), London
December 2009

THE MFM E-LETTER expresses the personal view of Professor Man Fong Mei on health, medicine and other East-West intellectual issues. He is currently the Chairman of the Chinese Medical Institute and Register (CMIR)Chairman of The Chinese Medical Council, UKCMC, and Executive Chairman, Consultative Working Committee of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS). Professor Mei has published and delivered numerous papers in the past two decades. He is also a professor and visiting professor at three Chinese medical universities and an active member of several medical specialty research committees. If you are interested in receiving future issues of the MFM E-Letter, please visit to subscribe for free.

You can also follow Professor Mei on Twitter: @Prof.Mei

The content of this e-letter does not constitute a statement of guarantee of any kind. It is subject to change without notice and without prejudice.

梅万方教授现任英国伦敦中医学院院长、英国中医管理委员会主席、世界中医药学会联合合工作咨询委员会执行主席。近二十年以来,发表和出版了大量的学术报告与文章,并担任国内三所医药大学的教授,同时参与数个医药专业研究机构的工作。MFM电子通讯表达了梅教授在健康、医药和其他中西文化思维方面的相关观点。 如果您对他的电子通讯感兴趣,欢迎点击这里免费订阅。

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