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.