Can you imagine a 62-mile traffic jam? China has a 62-mile traffic jam. How long does it take a 62-mile traffic jam to clear? The estimates in China are that it will take until mid-September for this traffic jam to clear. With respect to this Chinese traffic jam is there some underlying dynamic that should be examined?
Shai Oster has posted an article on The Wall Street Journal titled “China Traffic Jam Could Last Weeks.” The traffic jam is on the outskirts of the Chinese capital, Beijing. Oster’s article suggests two reasons for the traffic jam: Road construction and too many cars.
I would find it hard to believe that an American driver has not been in a traffic jam at one time or another. It may be due to an accident, construction or too much traffic. However how long do they last and at their worst how many miles do they cover? At their worst they may last a couple of hours and cover maybe five miles. Why the difference in the Chinese traffic jam?
The United States has had a middle class for a long, long time. It was something that went forward and then dropped and then went forward again. However the key was that middle class material ownership melded into the country’s capability to support it. If individual car ownership increased the U.S. tried to (quickly) see to it highways could support it (note the Interstate system). This held with manufacturing and production quality as well.
However China’s middle class has grown with lightning-like speed. A very few years ago the Chinese government was still trying to stamp out the middle class and maintain a pure Communist society.
In my reference material you can see that the Chinese people have established a very healthy middle class. Further you can see where they out-bought the United States population this year with respect to new cars. The Chinese highway system has not had a chance in any way to adjust to this high level of traffic. There are two problems: There is not enough road and Chinese drivers have not had a chance to learn to drive in traffic.
In 1970 I was in Vietnam. This was a country that did not have any type of automobile system. However with the appearance of the french and then us they obtained cars, motorcycles and motorized bikes. In fact they would put motors on anything they could find. You can imagine the traffic issues they encountered.
How has this middle class evolved? One way has been the outsourcing from European countries and the United States. This has pumped money into the economy and created this middle class.
I wrote an article not too long ago that pointed out that the Chinese are not able to guarantee th quality of their work regarding the outsourcing. As a result there have been many recalls. However our companies don’t quit sending them work because the cost is so little compared to American labor. Welcometo a global economy. For the time being quality will suffer.
Much as the traffic jam, the Chinese have received too much work to create effective checks and balances. The 62-mile traffic jam is physical demonstration of where China is right now.
The middle class is getting a lot of business. They do not know how to control everything because it is coming in so fast. Along with the business comes money. Cars are a great thing to buy. The money in the middle class is now challenging the capabilities of the Chinese government to cope with the changes.
This will not be the last massive traffic jam China has.