Chinese infrastructure?

I’ve been reading about the explosive growth of Chinese cities. For example, in today’s New York Times, there’s an article about Shanghai:

I thought the public works infrastructure in American cities like New York was built over decades at great expense and effort. Things like the subway system, the series of reservoirs in the Catskills and the sewage systems were big projects. So how is China keeping up the infrastructure requirements of these cities? And are they building extensive subway systems in these new megalopolises?

I suspect that they are skimping on construction, & not doing subways at all.

They’ll pay for that, later, in earthquake season.

I’ve been to Shanghai recently. It has an adequate subway system in place.

The key factor is that China remains a military dictatorship and for our present discussion that means a command economy.

So there is a basic assumption to consider; where does infrastructure come from?

In market economies, supply and demand have a role. Contrariwise in command economies, the central government attempts to predict and to dictate or influence market choices.

Shanghai’s infrastructure is not market driven. China’s polituburo has made a decision. The decision is that Shanghai and in particular the Pudong and its island will become rival to Hong Kong and Manhatten.

About Pudong

In accordance with that decision, the requisite infrastructure is been constructed. However, the economic activity has not yet caught up. The malls and towers are fully staffed but generally void of paying customers. The streetlighting illuminates largely empty 6 lanes highways. It’s a little eerie but with a billion plus people, China can afford to experiment with a city of 18 million.

In mainland China, Shenzhen is the real economic boom town.

About Shenzhen

au contraire. You’re at least a decade behind the times. China is the worlds largest recipient of FDA. USD60+ billion in 2004. It’s received $40-60 billion for the last 5 years.

IIRC, the state owned enterprise/government sector now comprises less than 20% of the total economy. yep, that part is a command economy. The other 80%+ is pretty much unbridled capitalism with a lot less government regulation than say the US of A.

Military dictatorship is debateable. The systems that were in place in Maoist China are largely gone.

Since you’re in Shanghai, can you tell me more about the infrastructure there? Do they have the systems set up to deliver the water for what’s apparently 10 or 20 million residents? How about the subway system? How extensive is it?

Last time I was there, everyone was pissed off that the construction for all these new subway lines going in was playing hell with traffic and it took forever to go anywhere.

Last year the USA graduated 70,000 engineers, India 300,000, China 500,000. They have to do something!

shanghai is probably most advanced infra in china. 2 subway line, 9 light rail lines, public buses, trains and a maglev. i don’t know extent of subway but you can search. it’s probably 50+ miles and expanding

not enough subw
y but not bad. built first line around 1994.

have an elevated ring road, n-s & e-w elevated roads.

i’ve never experienceed a pwer brownout. water is fine but not potable like most of asia. unlimited adsl at home for about $15/month and took 2 day wait to install wireless connection. i’m typing this on a smart gprs device with connection over a huge chunk of the country & my experience much better connectivity than in the US. places i visited in tibet 20 years ago with no electricity or phone lines now have a decent signal

what else can i tell you

The original question was spiked by the thought that the system of reservoirs in New York City was built over 100 years ago, when the city was far smaller, by farsighted city planners. (Even Water Tunnel No. 3, now being built, is a fifty-year project even with modern equipment.) Meanwhile, Shanghai and other cities have grown much larger much more quickly. How can they possibly build the necessary systems?

I’m a bit perplexed by your question. Are you suggesting that because it’s taking so long in New York, it must take as long elsewhere? Here in Tokyo (a CMA of 30 million people), buildings are routinely rebuilt every ten or twenty years. An entire 10 story building not more than 200 metres from my apartment vanished over a three day period a couple of weeks ago. And I mean, it was shrouded in blue tarps, dropped and the rubble carted away in that period. The new construction is already several stories tall.

There are all sorts of considerations that might make the New York waterway such a difficult and time-consuming project, some or none of which might apply to Shanghai.

Central planning can be bad for a lot of things. But the one thing it’s damn good at is infrastructure. China went from a feudal society largely based on substinence farming to a world power with modern cities and powerful industries in less than a century.

One of the major delays in planning public works projects is negotiating with all the government departments involved. This is probably less of a problem in China.

Two other things to add:

  1. They can outsource their domestic labour to China.
  2. Kit-building. In New York probably each and every building is probably created mostly from scratch, starting with an architect who comes up with an original blueprint. In Japan and (presumably) China, you make everything based on prefabbed bits, the only difference is how many floors you want.

As was noted above, building buildings is insanely fast in Japan (and presumably China.) This is because rather than building things, really they’re just assembling. Every bathroom in every apartment in Tokyo is a plastic bubble that has been shaped to have a sink and bathtub, and probably just has one water pipe and one wire, both of which of you connect to the building, you’ve got a running bathroom. Crawling out the (obligatory) crawl-hole in the roof of my bathroom and crawling around up there, you can find out that the whole thing is sitting on a couple of concrete legs about 6 inches off the floor of the concrete cube that is my apartment, and with about a foot between it and the walls of the cube. In total, they build a wall of cubes missing one side, crane all the bathroom bubbles in, apply the outside wall, and you’ve got an apartment building.

Thanks for your update. I readily agree your insight into the area is more broad than mine. I do think though that Hong Kong has more advanced infrastructure.

I don’t know what FDA is? I do tend to maintain China is a command economy insofar as the Central Government does maintain an ultimate say over certain commercial decisions. That is decision that would be market driving in a market economy. I’m talking about my impression that the Central Governmet has issued a directive that Shanghai and its surrounds will become the commercial heart of China. Infrastructure and Foreign Investment is accordingly concentrated there.

[QUOTE=Dewey Finn]
The original question was spiked by the thought that the system of reservoirs in New York City was built over 100 years ago, when the city was far smaller, by farsighted city planners. (Even Water Tunnel No. 3, now being built, is a fifty-year project even with modern equipment.) Meanwhile, Shanghai and other cities have grown much larger much more quickly. How can they possibly build the necessary systems?]

In addition to the ‘command economy’ aspect, Shanghai isn’t constrained by natural factors. It is on a large alluvial delta, at the mouth of the Yang-Tse. There is plenty of land and water and no rocky sub-stratum to impede excavations, in fact subsidence is a bit of a problem iirc. Moreover a lot of its development is horizontal; skyscrapers and elevated ring-roads. It is just plonked on top of the existing city.

Ahem… Second most, perhaps

I think he means FDI = Foreign Direct Investment.

Pfft, I wasn’t very impressed with the infrastructure in HK. Sure, the train system is nice, but go just one block from the tourist areas in the CBD and your in slums worthy of a 3rd world country.

fdi = foreign direct investment. government incentives are for the interi r of china & not the coast

china not = japan…different construction modEl.don’t use prefab like in japan for homes and buildings.

lived in hk for 6 years. ok, some of the infra is better - but not by a great margin.

biggest water problem in china is in the north. yellow river goes dry. now have a massive project to divert water from the yangzi to n china

it’s kind of difficult to explain but the command economy is largely gone. the economy has doubled - twice - since 1989. this is a mix of small old style socialist economy hanging on to the tail of a very dominant and largely unrestrained economy.