The Latest From the China Model

Ahem:

A section of a multi-million dollar bridge in China that opened in November has collapsed, leaving three people dead and five injured, state media say.

Four lorries fell off the Yangmingtan Bridge in Harbin City, Heilongjiang province, when part of it collapsed, Xinhua news agency said.

Shoddy construction and over-loading have been blamed for the incident, it added.

This is the sixth major bridge collapse in China in a year. We can only hope the firms who built these bridges aren’t the same Chinese firms that have been contracted to build bridges here in America.

Why do I harp on this story? Because everyone from Tom Friedman to Barack Obama has been telling us how China is a model for the future, how they “get things done”, how they are building bridges and dams and solar panels and going to eclipse us. But, over and over again, we find that the Chinese economy is far weaker than we’re led to believe. Their amazing light rail system has had numerous accidents and is burning money. Their amazing infrastructure collapses under the weight of four trucks. Their solar panel industry is struggling despite numerous subsidies. An earthquake that would barely kill anyone in the United States slaughters 70,000 in China.

You know how many major bridges have collapsed in the United States over the last decade due to our outdate crumbling infrastructure? As far as I can tell it’s one — the I35W in 2007. That killed 13 people during rush hour and was replaced within a year (we’ve had other bridges collapse, but only after natural disasters or vehicle collisions).

Lee talked about this quite a bit on his old blog: how corrupt the Chinese system is; how focused it is on appearing to accomplish great things rather than actually accomplishing great things. And this is just the latest demonstration of how their centralized, top-down economy simply doesn’t work very well. P.J. O’Rourke famously described China’s economic revolution as like building a pyramid from the top down.

So the next time you hear someone talking enviously about China, tell them to get a clue. Central planning doesn’t work. Just ask all the people buried under crappy Chinese buildings and bridges.

Update: That’s not to say this US system is ideal. This Bloomberg article argues we are being seriously gouged.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    In all my years of ealing with Chinese manufacturers, I’ve only seen one way of getting quality product from them: oversee everything like a tyrant.

    As a general rule, they take shortcuts that no sane person would consider. They manfuacture crap.

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  2. salinger

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  3. CM

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Xetrov

    Yeah, because everyone is out for a quick buck, nobody cares about quality of work anymore. It’s only the magnanimous government that keeps everyone honest.

    [/sarcasm]

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  5. Seattle Outcast

    Yeah. If central government imposed a system of standards and inspections during construction, like they do in Western countries, there wouldn’t be a dangerous infrastructure issue.

    They do have a system of standards, and a culture of shortcuts & bribes which totally fucking undercuts it. The problem is one of differering moral and ethical imperatives, not one one being too stupid to actually any construction codes.

    As a society they haven’t decided that this is an issue that needs to be addressed at this time. When they finally start to suffer from it on a widespread personal level, that will change. Right now there are still enough orders for cheaply produced goods coming in for them to be sloppy, cheap, and easily bribed.

    Also, if you do lean on them like a tyrant and demand they do things just as if they were located across the street from you, they do great work. Just don’t let up for a second.

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  6. CM

    Yeah, because everyone is out for a quick buck, nobody cares about quality of work anymore. It’s only the magnanimous government that keeps everyone honest.

    [/sarcasm]

    I’m certainly not saying that government = quality. But I’d much rather travel across a huge bridge that has undergone a regulatory system of design and checks than one that hasn’t. Not all companies are attempting to build an excellent reputation. Some ARE in the business of making as much money as possible, which means taking whatever shortcuts they can. With a rigorous system in place, and no room for corruption, there are no short-cuts possible.

    They do have a system of standards, and a culture of shortcuts & bribes which totally fucking undercuts it.

    Agreed. But corruption doesn’t automatically occur when you have a system of standards (we have world class building standards, and as close to zero corruption as it’s possible to have). You can have one without the other.

    As a society they haven’t decided that this is an issue that needs to be addressed at this time. When they finally start to suffer from it on a widespread personal level, that will change. Right now there are still enough orders for cheaply produced goods coming in for them to be sloppy, cheap, and easily bribed.

    Yeah I agree.

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  7. Biggie G

    You two both know that is a load of crap. This is just like when you guys cite Somalia as an example of limited government. There is a huge difference between wanting to remove redundancies and laws that cause people to become felons with no intent and having no regulations because you have a huge country full of one billion faceless cogs whose survival you don’t care about. This is the culmination of huge, omnipotent government. Everyone functions for the state and they are all replaceable.

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  8. CM

    This is just like when you guys cite Somalia as an example of limited government.

    Yeah, I really must stop doing that ;-p

    Compete regulation doesn’t work. Complete deregulation doesn’t either. As usual, it’s somewhere in the middle.

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  9. salinger

    There is a huge difference between wanting to remove redundancies and laws that cause people to become felons with no intent

    Yeah, fixing this is a good idea.

    But if you really believe this is the full extent to which the interested parties here in the US would go with deregulation – I have a bridge in China I can sell you. Why do you think building codes, labor laws, emission controls etc. etc. were implemented in the first place – just a way of codifying the beneficence already bestowed by the captains of industry?

    S.O. actually does have a point – it is gonna take a whole lot of pain and suffering before any type of meaningful regulation is put in place in China. The same type of pain and suffering that led to the regulations here.

    Are there duplicate and unnecessary regulations – of course there are – and any effort to reform what really needs reforming is cool by me. But – I would much rather live in a country that has erred on the side of over regulation than a place with none.

    Ever try to walk outside when the particulate matter has hit 700? You literally cannot see across the street.

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  10. Xetrov

    With a rigorous system in place, and no room for corruption, there are no short-cuts possible.

    So I can trust that you will never again travel on a bridge approved by our Federal Government considering.

    (Nevermind the double-standard from the MSM in regard to blame for that debacle)

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  11. CM

    The same type of pain and suffering that led to the regulations here.

    Everywhere. Following the big Napier quake of 1931, which levelled virtually everything standing, a thorough review of New Zealand building codes found them to be totally inadequate. This is why there was far less destruction from the Christchurch quakes last year.

    But – I would much rather live in a country that has erred on the side of over regulation than a place with none.

    Totally.

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  12. CM

    So I can trust that you will never again travel on a bridge approved by our Federal Government considering.

    As I don’t believe that’s indicative of the overall situation in the US at all, I’m sure I will.

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  13. Biggie G

    I would much rather live in a country that has erred on the side of over regulation than a place with none

    Again, this is what I was talking about. NO ONE here has said that we need to go back to 1720 where there was NO regulation. There is a whole spectrum of choices. We do not have to settle on central planning or anarchy.

    Also, have you seen anything that Hal has posted lately? I would much prefer we erred on the side of freedom. (Before you start, I breathe the same air, drink the same water and like to look at the same forests as you do, so stop that argument now.) What purpose was served by the Gibson raid? What purpose was served by a guy doing federal time for violating a law that Costa Rica took off the books? What purpose is served by having countless laws on the books so we don’t even know that we violated one until someone gets a bug up his ass and decides to go after you?

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  14. salinger

    What purpose was served by a guy doing federal time for violating a law that Costa Rica took off the books? What purpose is served by having countless laws on the books so we don’t even know that we violated one until someone gets a bug up his ass and decides to go after you?

    No purpose whatsoever – same as bringing this up in reference to this post.

    The fact that China has virtually no enforceable (or at the best – no inclination to enforce rules that may be on the books) does directly lead to their unsafe infrastructure and lack of workplace and public safety.

    Over-regulation in the United States has no bearing whatsoever on the conditions created in a country with almost total deregulation – other than as a cautionary anecdote for those seeking to remove rules to be aware that it is possible to go too far – and that examples of going too far exist uncorrected by the market.

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  15. AlexInCT

    I had to wonder if our resident leftists that to blame these massive failures in China on lack of regulation and government oversight really are this stupid, misinformed, or outright disingenuous, when anyone with 2 working neurons knows that in communist China the only entity responsible for, or allowed to work on, these mega projects is the damned government itself. Regulations and oversight go right out the frigging window when totalitarian leftist governments of the people – the kind our resident communists, socialists, statists, and big government retards love so dearly and would like us to emulate – run the show. Look at the environmental history of every god damned leftist paradise for proof.

    Also have no doubt that if these leftists were allowed to take control here, all this regulation & oversight shit goes right out of the window. We would have major failure after failure, as these massive projects, with the bulk of the money scammed by the connected leftists for their own purposes, result in shoddy building, because corners are going to need to be cut, if they can get of the ground, since they will have to be done with a fraction of the money allocated, do nothing but waste money and enrich the elite. I again prompt you to look at these massive projects in historical bastions like the USSR, North Korea, China of yore and today, Vietnam of the past, Venezuela today, and any other hell hole run by the usual leftist tyrants be they marxists or pretend lovers of islam, for the evidence.

    Been away because life has dealt me a real shit sandwich, but I am getting over it and moving on. Biggest lesson in life is to never trust anyone and to exect the worst from people: doubly so the ones that pretend to be goody-two-shoes.

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  16. AlexInCT

    With a rigorous system in place, and no room for corruption, there are no short-cuts possible.

    That system must depend on unicorns and underpants gnomes to keep it working. The fact is that no system, ever, will be perfect. It is fantasy to believe both the laws of nature and human nature can be done away with.

    And we are where we are today because stupid people keep pretending that the problem with this system where everything is fair, there are no short cuts, corruption never happens, healthcare and cable TV are rights, but working hard and getting ahead deserves punishment and ridicule, and everyone needs to cross the finish line, at the same time, with the same goodies, is not that the whole thing is a house of cards, one where tyrants brutalize & terrorize the population, treating them like worker ants are treated in ant colonies, but that the “right people” have not done taken a crack at setting up paradise on earth, yet.

    In the mean time the people that have straddled humanity with the most corruption, caused most harm, murdered over a hundred million people in a short century, and have held billions hostage in some of the most horrible systems to ever curse mankind, continue to be put up as examples of how we should do things by those still addicted to these idiotic fantasies that these tyrants use to subjugate the stupid, demandwe need to double down on the stupid, because this time doing so will make it actually work.

    Life is not fair. Never trust anyone telling you they intend to make it fairer.

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  17. Xetrov

    And we are where we are today because stupid people keep pretending that the problem with this system where everything is fair, there are no short cuts, corruption never happens, healthcare and cable TV are rights, but working hard and getting ahead deserves punishment and ridicule, and everyone needs to cross the finish line, at the same time, with the same goodies, is not that the whole thing is a house of cards, one where tyrants brutalize & terrorize the population, treating them like worker ants are treated in ant colonies, but that the “right people” have not done taken a crack at setting up paradise on earth, yet.

    Nominated for run-on sentence of the year.

    BTW, WB Alex.

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  18. richtaylor365

    Been away because life has dealt me a real shit sandwich, but I am getting over it and moving on. Biggest lesson in life is to never trust anyone and to exect the worst from people: doubly so the ones that pretend to be goody-two-shoes.

    It sounds like that is worthy of it’s own post, if you are up to it.

    BTW, WB Alex.

    Ditto, we were worried about you.

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  19. CM

    That system must depend on unicorns and underpants gnomes to keep it working.

    Yep, we’ve got so many of both here we need to do weekly culls. Haven’t quite worked out how to get one group to cull the other. We’re working on that though.

    Nothing quite like seeing Alex come back and post exactly the same generic post yet again, like he’s never been away. The same post that can appear in any thread, no matter what the preceeding comments were about.

    Notwithstanding that, or politics in general, sorry to hear you’ve had a bad time of it. I hope things are starting to head in the right direction for you.

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  20. balthazar

    Yep, we’ve got so many of both here we need to do weekly culls. Haven’t quite worked out how to get one group to cull the other. We’re working on that though.

    Nothing quite like seeing Alex come back and post exactly the same generic post yet again, like he’s never been away. The same post that can appear in any thread, no matter what the preceeding comments were about.

    Notwithstanding that, or politics in general, sorry to hear you’ve had a bad time of it. I hope things are starting to head in the right direction for you.

    Too bad we cant say the same about you.

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