Since the 1950s, millions and millions of single family, wood frames homes have been built in America. American’s call these vast residential areas the suburbs. America is a country of suburbs. America is so much a country of suburbs that in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau designated densely packed residential areas as urban areas.
In America, hardly anyone lives in the downtown areas of hundreds of cities across the country. As an example, consider San Antonio, Texas. Less than 25% of the people in San Antonio actually live in the downtown area. However, San Antionio is the 7th most populous city in America. So where does more than 75% of San Antonio’s population live? In the suburbs, of course.
China is developing differently from America. China is building cities. While American’s long ago fled the cities to populate the suburbs, the trend in China is to move from a rural area to a city. These are cities in the traditional sense, meaning places where people live and work. Living in an apartment building is the norm in Chinese cities. Due to China’s insane overpopulation, living in a high-rise is the only practical solution to housing needs and competing land uses.
The two countries also differ in infrastructure investment and maintenance as well the speed of infrastructure projects. America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Moreover, due to debt, revenue, and project cost issues, most American states and its federal government can’t seem to do anything about the situation. When projects are given the go ahead, they usually take many, many years to complete, and the final price tag almost always exceeds the projected estimate. Consider “The Big Dig,” the name given to Boston’s large highway project. That project took 20 years to complete and was plagued by design flaws, corruption, and a tremendous cost overrun.
China is pouring massive amounts of money and resources into infrastructure development. For example, in the last five years China constructed more than 6,000 miles of high-speed rail lines. Metro lines are being built and expanded upon with amazing speed. The Shanghai metro is the longest in the world. China is home to the longest bridge in the world, and the second longest bridge in the world, and the third longest bridge in the world. This is not to imply that China’s infrastructure projects have not also included design flaws, corruption, and cost overruns. However, China’s authoritarian government is able to execute projects with great speed. In America, even when there is money for a project, its regulatory environment seems to greatly hinder execution of projects.
This post is part of a series of posts about the differences between China and America.