As part of the 158B in infrastructure spend China recently unleashed, China’s NRDC approved 25 urban rail transit project plans and feasibility studies in 1 day. That’s a whole lotta transit. And they’re doing this at a time when the economy slows and growth stabilization becomes the top priority.
They may have spent much of the 20th century hiding behind a red curtain, but they have learned that if they want to again become the dominant economy (which they were uncontested from the beginning of the second millennia to about 1800, although the economy of Europe as a whole was about the same size as China from 1500 to 1800, which was still known as the Age of Chinese Dominance), they have to not only play in the global market, but invest at home to give themselves an edge. While we will spend decades bickering about the need for high-speed rail, they will identify the need and approve a feasibility study within the next five year plan at the latest. And if the feasibility study comes back positive, they’ll get it done. In comparison, California started talking about high-speed rail at least as early as 1996, when the California High Speed Rail Authority was established, did not decide to go for it until 2008, and did not approve the first phase until July of this year.
China realizes that if it is going to go head-to-head with the United States, it has to at least match the United States, if not exceed the United States, it in all of the metrics that matter, including education, R&D investment (to the tune of 2.2% of GDP), and infrastructure. And it’s doing that. It plans to meet its goals of 45,000 km of high-speed railway and 83,000 km of highway networks. The infrastructure will be able to move people and goods as efficiently in the interior as on the coasts, making most of China suitable for new factories and office parks. This will allow China to continue to dominate in global manufacturing and take on more back-office functions.
So when are we going to realize that if we want to maintain our lead a little longer, and push forward the date when India knocks down the USA to #3, that we are going to have to stop wasting money on ineffective broad-based buy-American stimulus programs and invest in infrastructure and R&D in an effort to at least keep pace with China?