“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”– Kurt Vonnegut
My friend Tom Dyson has just returned from his amazing journey around the world. As he put it:
“My family and I sold all our things, handed back the keys to our apartments in Delray Beach, cancelled our cell phone plans, and hit the road. Now we live like gypsies, drifting from country to country… town to town… educating our children on the road and experiencing different cultures.”
In one of his blogs from China, he talked about the huge housing and infrastructure building campaign the country has been on for at least the last 10 years. (Certainly it was in the midst of it when I was last there about five years ago.)
China is funding this immense project partly with the wealth it acquires from state-owned businesses, partly from taxes, and partly from fake money (the way the US had funded the stock market bubble during the same period).
The difference between them (the Chinese) and us (the USA) is that we are using our fake money to enrich the financial class (their wealth has increased by trillions), whereas the Chinese are building actual things – railroads, roads, and buildings.
It begs the question: Which is the smarter approach?
Excerpts from Tom’s blog are reprinted below…
The US vs. China: Who Will Win the Fake Money Race?
Shaoyaoju Apartment, Beijing
2,000 years ago, Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China, built an army of 7,000 full-size clay soldiers, clay horses, and bronze chariots. Each soldier had a unique face. The project took him 40 years, employed 750,000 labourers and slaves, and used the most advanced technology of the day. Then he buried it.
In 1974, some farmers, digging a well, discovered the remains of the Terracotta Army near Xi’an. Archaeologists call it the “greatest discovery of the 20th century.” Tourism promoters call it the “eighth wonder of the world.”
Today, China is building a new Terracotta Army, except the statues are not made of clay. They’re made of steel, glass, and cement. They’re 300 feet tall. And there are a lot more than 7,000 of them.
We have now been travelling around China by high-speed rail for six weeks. We have covered nearly 3,000 miles… from the Vietnam border in the far south to the Gobi desert in the far northwest to Xi’an and Chengdu in the center and now to Beijing in the northeast.
They’re building condo towers everywhere… in big cities, in towns, in villages. I remember the condo boom and all the construction cranes in Miami in 2006. Here in China, every town we pass through looks like Miami in 2006.
Sometimes, they even build condo towers in the middle of nowhere. We’ll be gazing out the window at desert or farmland when suddenly a multi-tower development will flash past the window. I’ll nudge Kate and say, “More construction.”
(We spot them by the cranes on their roofs and the empty cement shells with tarps wrapped around them.)
China has 425 cities with over a million people.
A city with a million people is a big city. Dallas has a population of 1.25 million. Miami has a population of 460,000. St. Louis has a population of 300,000. Manchester, in England, has a population of 500,000.
China is a big place.
In a previous post about this, I guessed there must be at least 10,000 towers currently under construction in China.
But after our train ride from Xi’an to Beijing today – and the hundreds of cranes we saw – I’m revising my guess from 10,000 to 100,000. That’s probably conservative…
Emperor Qin would be proud.