Here comes China

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If you still think of China as a poor, backward, or primitive country, you are woefully out of date. You owe it to yourself and your kids to know better.

This is the fastest growing economy executing the biggest public infrastructure build-out in history, fast eclipsing anything the US or Europe has ever done. They are not coming up, they are already overtaking us.

Don't believe me? Read on.

The transformation of Shanghai in the last 26 years from The Atlantic


China used more cement in the three years 2011-2013 than the USA used in the entire 20th Century. Yes you read that right.

China has the world's largest middle class, quite a lot bigger than the USA's

China has the world's largest urban area

China has overtaken the USA as the world's largest economy in PPP terms. In real terms the USA is still 60% bigger and could stay that way for decades.

China is already the world's biggest spender on international tourism, far exceeding the second biggest, the USA. Reportedly 100 million Chinese travelled overseas this year. Think about that: if Chinese tourists were a country, it would be about the twelfth most populous.

In 2014 vehicle production in China reached 22 million units, making it the largest output by any nation at any time in history. In comparison the U.S., the second-largest car market, sold 15.6 million cars last year.

Over the past few years, China has built a new skyscraper every five days, more than 30 airports, metros in 25 cities, the three longest bridges in the world, more than 6,000 miles of high speed railway lines, 26,000 miles of motorway, and both commercial and residential property developments on a mind-boggling scale.

China will have more skyscrapers than the U.S. by 2017... China will have 802 buildings standing over 152 meters tall compared to 539 in the U.S. In 10 years, the number of skyscrapers on the mainland will reach 1,318, compared to 563 in the U.S. Currently, the U.S. tops has the most skyscrapers in the world with 533. China has 470, not counting those in Hong Kong [which has 293 more!]. China developers are currently building 332 new buildings, all over 152 meters tall, and there’s another 516 in the planning stages. In contrast, only six skyscrapers are under construction in the U.S. at present, with another 24 in the works.. Five of the top ten cities for skyscrapers are in China (including Hong Kong).

The rate of infrastructure spending in Wuhan [a city of 10 million people] alone is comparable to the UK's entire expenditure on renewing and improving the fabric of the country. In this single city, hundreds of apartment blocks, ring roads, bridges, railways, a complete subway system and a second international airport are all being constructed.

Two towers almost a kilometer high have been announced for Wuhan, China. But they won't just be special because of their height - the towers will actually clean the polluted lake next to which they will sit.

China already has:

all built in the last thirty years while Western infrastructure languished.

China hasn't developed domestic air travel... yet. Eight of the ten busiest airports in the world are in the USA. Beijing is 5th. [Update: That was last year. This year it is second ]
But watch out here they come:
The government’s plan for 2011-15 called for 82 new airports to be built during this period. In the event, more than 100 have sprung up.
E.g. In Zhengzhou 20,000 workers are building a second terminal and runway. They are due to begin test operations by December, just three years after ground was broken. By 2030, officials expect, the two terminals and, by then, five runways will handle 70m passengers yearly—about the same as Heathrow now—and 5m tonnes of cargo, more than three times as much as Heathrow last year.

China has the world's largest active military force, and one of the largest space programmes (only the USA and USSR/Russia have put more payloads into orbit.

Three of the ten largest cities are in China - Shanghai is the largest in the world. But here's the thing: China has 24 cities of over 3 million people.

China is really polluted, right?

Well, yes. China is now the world's largest emitter of CO2.

If we assume that the One Child Policy has led to a moderately conservative 200 million fewer people today...feeding China with them today would require a massive 46 million hectares of additional farm land... That is more land than the entire state of California... I can’t think of any other government ever that has asked so much of it citizens in service of the environment... the One Child Policy has required massive sacrifice of personal rights for societal gain... China is the greenest government.


the growth of low-carbon technologies in China has been spectacular. To reach the goal in China's 12th Five Year Plan of 100 gigawatts of installed wind capacity by 2015, and 1000 gigawatts by 2050 (roughly equivalent to the current capacity of the entire US grid), the government has invested heavily in R&D, used aggressive local regulations to demand the involvement of Chinese suppliers, and provided strong support for partially state-owned firms

Much has been achieved during the past decades in terms of increased access to services, increased municipal wastewater treatment, the creation of water and wastewater utilities... Over the past 20 years, China has engaged in what is possibly the largest program to build wastewater treatment plants in history... Until the early 1980s, there was no single municipal wastewater treatment plant in China... in 2006 there was sufficient capacity to treat 52% of municipal residential wastewater.

Beijing's authorities have introduced a new set of measures to cut emissions and allocated 760 billion yuan (£75.8 billion) to improve the city's air quality by 2017..

new research shows the growth of emissions from China, the world's biggest emitter, may be slowing due to its efforts to clean up the air pollution problem in many of its cities... and a decoupling of CO2 growth and GDP growth

China's ecological footprint per capita is less that a third of the USA's.

China's CO2 emissions levelled out in 2014.

Protests are escalating.

Of course the Chinese are really unhappy, right?

China scores 90th on the Social Progress Index but they report being fairly satisfied (82nd out of 178 countries)
and their suicide rate is low and falling.

And China is poor? Well, yes, many Chinese live in poverty. But the monthly average wage is higher than India, Egypt, or Thailand and is increasing.

On the other hand, as a nation China is now the world's second-largest economy, half that of the USA's.

They dominate world manufacturing (not a good thing if the world ever gears up for war again): 90% of PCs, 80% of air-conditioners, 74% of solar cells, 70% of cell phones, 60% of shoes etc...

They are the world's largest importer and exporter of goods.

The world's second-biggest internet company is Alibaba, whose market valuation exceeds Amazon's and is second only to Google.

the value of its domestic financial assets—including equities, bonds, and loans—has reached $17.4 trillion, trailing only the United States and Japan.

They have the mindshare: the majority of people in the world think China is now the world's leading economic power.

China will be the biggest economy within a decade or so. In a few decades they will be the world's biggest military power.

I'm upset my son doesn't get the option of learning Mandarin in school. At least his school's overseas trip this year is the China. I don't have the slightest doubt of where the world's political, military, and commercial power centre will be before he is my age: China.
Be ready.

[Update: there is of course a contra view, for example:

China is a grotesque economic aberration that bears no relationship to prior economic history or any conventional economic models-–not even to the export-mercantilism model originally developed by Japan, and which has now proven itself wholly unsustainable. Instead, China is a nation that has gone mad building,speculating and borrowing on the back of a credit bubble so monumental (and dangerously unstable) that its implications are resolutely ignored by observers deluded by the notion that China embodies a unique economic model called “red capitalism”.

But when a nation’s debt outstanding explodes from $1 trillion to $25 trillion in 14 years, that’s not capitalism, even if its red. What it represents is monetary madness driven by the state.

[Even if they overshoot and crash, that will serve to break political logjams. I've said a few times that you can't suspend the laws of economic gravity, so they may well be in for a bust.

If they do take a dive, that will only make them more aggressive. Think of Germany in the 1930s.

On the other hand we are talking about a billion tough diligent people whose culture puts the needs of the many before the needs of the few: China just might pull this off. The productivity kicker and economic pump-priming they will get from all this connective infrastructure will be immense.]

China is merely returning after a brief dip to where it has been for most of history

P.S this blog is usually about ITSM. Where is the ITSM in China?

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