Tag: Bridge

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.