We’re losing thousands of iron and steel jobs in this country. The news has suddenly emerged in the last few days only — no doubt because China itself is shedding vastly higher numbers. President Xi Jinping happens to be visiting and no doubt David Cameron will be telling him of our problems. But there’s nothing that Xi will be able to do.
In retrospect, it would have been better not to have given so many opportunities for Indian iron-masters to take over most of our old industries here even though they were able to keep on employing a few thousand workers. In 50 years’ time in the advanced countries it would be surprising for any iron or steel to be made or used any longer. It’s a 3,000 year technology that’s really had its day now. Carbon-based compounds of superior performance, very possibly made by DNA-type algorithms, will be available.
It’s a pity these materials weren’t already available. There would then be some lower-grade jobs immediately available. But we need to be training many more scientific students and graduates yet, and they will take time to feed through and produce the new materials. As hinted before, maybe this is what lies behind the new love affair between China and ourselves. If anything, China needs new more manpower-intensive technologies than we do. We still have the sort of culture that can innovate. Maybe this is what Osborne was discussing in Beijing for several days last week.