More Like China

China’s high speed rail system is supposed to be the model for our country. Thomas Friedman has said that he wishes our country were more like China and we could “get things done.”

Well, to quote reasonable liberal Matthew Yglesias, it’s easy to build a high speed rail system if you don’t insist that it actually works or anything:

A section of new high-speed rail line in central China has apparently collapsed two months before it was scheduled to go into use, in the latest blow to the nation’s already troubled high-speed rail ambitions.

The extent of the collapse wasn’t clear. The state-run Xinhua news agency and other local media said Monday that a 300-meter (almost 1,000-foot) section of a high-speed rail line intended to connect the Yangtze River cities of Wuhan and Yichang collapsed Friday, apparently following heavy rain. The collapse, near the city of Qianjiang in China’s Hubei province, happened on a rail line that had already undergone test runs.

Last year, they had an actual accident that killed 40 people and injured another 172.

There are three reasons I don’t take China seriously as an economic threat. One, their economic growth figures looks better than they are. It’s easy to grow an economy 10% when you’re ridiculously poor to begin. Second, thanks to China’s one-child policy, they are about to get older faster than any nation in history.

And this is the third. Their economic miracle is like all centrally-planed authoritarian enterprises: shoddy, corrupt and in danger of failing over the second someone pisses on the side of it. Heaven help us all if the the Three Gorges Dam is built to this standard. China makes a lot of our beloved products, including the iPad I read the above report on. But there’s a difference: they are selling those to a capitalist society in which people have choices. If iPad’s fell apart before you used them, no one would buy them. But in a centrally-planned controlled economy, you simply have no choice but to ride on the Crumble Express to nowhere.

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    High speed rail is more of a Shelbyville idea….

    HSR, or mass transit in general, is economically feasible only under certain circumstances. Those conditions don’t exist in most of the US, so calls for everyone to give up their cars and switch to using the bus of whatever other lame excuse for transit that is being envisioned are doomed to be a drain on taxpayers while being hideously underutilized.

    NOBODY WANTS TO TAKE THE BUS

    The few times I’ve been forced to use Seattle mass transit system for anything other than going directly to downtown Seattle have been horrible experiences. You literally spend hours trying to accomplish what can normally be done in 30 minutes if you have a working car.

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  2. Poosh

    Capitalism confusion: I don’t know about America but “free market principles” don’t seem to apply to railways, even if they’re “privatized,” in the UK. You can bid for contracts or whatever but it just doesn’t seem to be the case that our train-lots-in-life can be improved via the usual way. I can’t get on another train if I don’t like one train’s prices etc. And trains are the ONLY way to travel for a great deal of us. This causes all sorts of problems in my brain.

    The trains in the UK aren’t great … overpriced imo … and they were far worse when they were nationalised. Maybe it’s just the British way that everything is just shite compared to other countries.

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  3. Miguelito

    The few times I’ve been forced to use Seattle mass transit system for anything other than going directly to downtown Seattle have been horrible experiences. You literally spend hours trying to accomplish what can normally be done in 30 minutes if you have a working car.

    Yeah, the only time public transit (San Diego) works for me at all is when I have Jury Duty. I can drive down the hill (I still have to drive some, it’s too far to walk it) to the stadium and take the Trolley downtown. It’s nice in that I avoid the traffic and parking issues. It’s actually sorta fun on those days too.

    I’ve used the trans website and even google every now and then to see what it would take to use public transportation for my job. The best is just over an hour on multiple busses with fairly long walks on both ends. When bad weather and traffic issues pile up just right to be a horrid day, it still takes a hair less time then that in my car. So why bother using transit?

    Cars mean personal freedom, there are those who just don’t like people having that.

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