China bridge fact of the day

“The amount of high bridge construction in China is just insane,” said Eric Sakowski, an American bridge enthusiast who runs a website on the world’s highest bridges. “China’s opening, say, 50 high bridges a year, and the whole of the rest of the world combined might be opening 10.”

Of the world’s 100 highest bridges, 81 are in China, including some unfinished ones, according to Mr. Sakowski’s data. (The Chishi Bridge ranks 162nd.)

China also has the world’s longest bridge, the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, a high-speed rail viaduct running parallel to the Yangtze River, and is nearing completion of the world’s longest sea bridge, a 14-mile cable-stay bridge skimming across the Pearl River Delta, part of a 22-mile bridge and tunnel crossing that connects Hong Kong and Macau with mainland China.

The country’s expressway growth has been compared to that of the United States in the 1950s, when the Interstate System of highways got underway, but China is building at a remarkable clip. In 2016 alone, China added 26,100 bridges on roads, including 363 “extra large” ones with an average length of about a mile, government figures show.

Here is the Chris Buckley NYT piece, excellent visuals too.  Via Kevin Lewis.

Comments

Of course the bridges in Brazil are even higher.

They are surely of better quality. The Rio-Niterói for example has many times been considered one of the most impressive bridges of the world thanks to its bold project.
It is just one examples of Brazilian Engineering. American former President Theodore Roosevelt said the Brazilian telegraph project was the second most impressive Engineering project in the world. Brazil's Christ the Redeemer is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

It's nice that you consider the American President Theodore Roosevelt an authority on infrastructure. But aren't there any Brazillian presidents worthy of citation?

Yes, but none of them has been to the jungle joining Rondon's expedition for some weeks and seeing the herculean tasks the job demanded. Mr. Roosevelt, you may know, was a kind of aventurer between his presidential runs. He even wrote a book about it, Through the Brazilian Wilderness. The Brazilian book about the expedition, Rondon Conta Sua Vida, is one of the greatest classics of Brazilian literature. Facing hostile tribes, hunger, jaguars, the miles and miles throught the jungle, malaria... All while trying to establish peaceful (nothing of American "the only good India is a dead Indian" thing, Rondon himself was from mixed Indian and White baxkground) relarions with the natives and find interesting animals, herbs and minerals ro be studied back in Rio de Janeiro. It was our finest hour.

The jungle killed TR. I have been to the Amazon - Belém, Manaus, and into the interior. It is no place for the faint of heart. Magnificent, deep, and dangerous. It is best left in the hands of the Indians to protect, but it will be destroyed by greed.

Roosevel suffered from exhaustion while he was there. Although Malaria may have been the worse problem. I am not sure if Roosevelt was srill there, but at one point Rondon had to carry sozens of his men who were too sick to even stand up. In other times, they had nothing to eat but the vultures they hunted, but the smell was so bad they couldn't eat. The Amazon is terrible. Animals flee that hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only Brazilians endure.

The future is bright for bungee jumping in China.

...or just plain old "jumping"...

The amount of high bridge construction in China is just insane

How long before China is bankrupt, that's the real question.

It is difficult for countries to go bankrupt, especially if they have armies. Perhaps you mean that China will default on its debt - well they only have 13% of GDP externally denominated debt which is pretty handleable. Internal debt of course they can simply print money if they got into trouble with that.

Since China is still rapidly developing, I think it is probable that they will grow their way out of any debt crisis. It's when they become a mature country, like Japan, that these things become a problem.

Is a provincial government defaults on loans to the central government that borrowed from the central bank, who losses money by debt write down?

Who, precisely got poorer?

The people who got paid building the bridges?

Note that probably 80% of US railroad corporations went bankrupt, in many cases defaulting to governments as well as private speculators - but the utility of rail only increased in the ensuing century to now near two centuries. Workers benefited in the 19th century, and still benefit in the 21th century from railroads.

How much of it is done for military purposes?

Buckley's article alleges corruption relating to the construction of roads and bridges in China and alleges that many of the roads and bridges are underused, and compares the pace of construction of roads and bridges in China with that of the US interstate highway system in the 1950s. But Buckley fails to mention the corruption that plagued, and still plagues, highway construction in the US, and he also fails to mention that for many years the interstate highways in the US were underused. On that last point, I remember when one could travel I-75 for miles and not see another car; indeed, my brother and I would play a game counting cars. Of course, today many interstate highways are more like parking lots than expressways on holiday weekends and during the summer vacation season, as the combination of population growth and neglect has left the interstate highway system looking more like it belongs in a third world country than in the world's leading economy. As for the pace of construction in China, I remember President Eisenhower promoting the interstate highway system as a national defense matter, the interstate highways needed to move troops and military equipment when the Soviets invaded the US, the urgency (and corruption urgency fostered) necessary because the Soviets could invade anytime and, indeed, they might accelerate their plans for invasion before the US completed the interstate highway system. Whenever the US considers China, there's an outbreak of amnesia in the US.

But Buckley fails to mention the corruption that plagued, and still plagues, highway construction in the US, and he also fails to mention that for many years the interstate highways in the US were underused.

He's not prog-vermin who feels the need to issue delicts to the United States when he writes about a foreign country. He's normal and you're not.

"He’s not prog-vermin"

Why bother to listen to someone who dehumanizes those they disagree with politically.

Buckley would qualify as "prog-vermin" by most right wingers for his general views. It's just that progressives are fine with being critical of certain countries like China and Russia.

Another way of looking at this is to ask why the US would invest in infrastructure in the 1950s but not today. I've given the national security reason, but there are other reasons as well. For one, labor in the US is much more expensive today than in the 1950s, not unlike cheap labor in China today. Then there's the opportunity cost: in the 1950s the US didn't spend much on social welfare programs, such as social security and Medicare/Medicaid, much like China today; surprising as it may seem, communist China doesn't spend much on social welfare programs - other than infrastructure. Finally, in the 1950s the US was confident, confident in its ability to compete with its neighbors and a war-torn Europe, unlike today when the US wishes to insulate itself from trade. China today is like the US in the 1950s, confident in its ability to compete with anybody, in China's case so confident that China is connecting China with its competitors to the south (Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, all the way to Singapore) via a high speed rail network, while the US considers building a wall with its neighbors. In sum, in many ways China today is the US in the 1950s. To be clear, I have no desire to return the US to the 1950s, or for the US to be more like China today. Indeed, there's no reason why the US can't make the type of investment in infrastructure that China is making today. The US chooses not to make the investment. The pertinent question is: why? Of course, the answer is obvious to anyone paying attention.

As the saying goes, eventually you run out of other people's money.

So, is China outbuilding its capacity to maintain its infrastructure?

Toll revenue is not enough to cover interest payments of capital used for construction.

The situation will be more interesting when someone rediscovers "bridge life-cycle cost analysis" and realizes this cost is 3, 4 or 5 times the initial design and construction cost. Spread over 50-75 years, but if interest can't be repaid I don't think they're saving for maintenance.

"Toll revenue is not enough to cover interest payments of capital used for construction."
Then maybe they should not have built the bridge after all if there is not enough people willing to pay wnough to pay for it.

Command economy showing off the earnings of the market economy.

One thing for sure, the images of the bridges were quite striking.

You will note the prominence of cable-stayed cantilevered suspension design. There are three types of bridges: truss (old-fashioned railroad bridges, easy to build, you don't need to make fancy metal that resists tension, just easy to make cast iron that resists compression), true suspension (e.g., SFO's Golden Gate bridge, but you need better steel for tension), and, similar in principle, cable-stayed cantilevered suspension ('straight line' suspension cables; the Brooklyn Bridge, which I offer for sale, is a hybrid form of this design). The cantilevered suspension is a bit harder to build and takes a bit more material than a classic suspension bridge but resists swaying more, thus is psychologically comforting, and can span longer from the vertical span. A spectacular example of a cantilevered suspension single span bridge is the Puente del Alamillo bridge in Spain. Yes I know everything. Ask me about the Karo-Cann!

@myself - I got it slightly wrong, (Wikipedia): "The cable-stayed bridge is optimal for spans longer than cantilever bridges and shorter than suspension bridges". So in fact suspension bridges are the best bridge for long distances, but they sway more, so for a high bridge would be psychologically unsettling.

I'm reminded of the scene from "O Brother, Where Art Thou".

Junior O'Daniel: "Well' he's the reform candidate, Daddy."
Junior O'Daniel: "A lot of people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some."
Pappy O"Daniel: "How we gonna run reform when we're the damn incumbent? Is that the best idea you boys can come up with? Reform?!

This encapsulates the malaise of our country. Maybe China will regret overbuilding and maybe it will herald prosperity. Unless America begins to dream big again and innovate, we will fall behind.

"Unless America begins to dream big again and innovate, we will fall behind."

If you replace "America" with "Washington DC" and "we" with "they" or "it", then the sentence means the same, but leaves quite a different aftertaste.

Ehh, bridges are showy and impressive and easy if you have the cash, which China does. They're making statements to their neighbors, which the US doesn't have to do.

" we will fall behind."

Are we in a bridge-building race with China? Why should we, meaning the general population of the US, care how many bridges the Chinese build? Shouldn't we be more worried about how many souffle's the French cook or how many cows the Argentinians raise or how big a Ferris wheel the Brits build?

"Are we in a bridge-building race with China?"

Yes, Americans choose to build bridges in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of America's energies and skills, because that challenge is one that Americans are willing to accept, one they are unwilling to postpone, and one which they intend to win, and the others, too.

It is naive to look at bridge building in China as purely economics. Economic SOE entities are the foundations of the different Chinese political factions. Former paramount leader Deng XiaoPing had chaired the China Bridge Association ... Sorry, wrong type of bridge. Anyway the purged strongman Zhao YongKang formerly controlled the multi-billion Yuan Chinese petroleum industry and many of his sub-ordinates in that industry had together fallen with him. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-purge-cnpc-specialreport-idUSKBN0FT2NK20140725

There was a constant puzzle about the unrests in the oil producing part of western China.

Former Premier Li Peng championed and dominated the hydro-electric industry and the Three Gorges Dam project. http://www.asianetworkexchange.org/articles/10.16995/ane.103/galley/158/download/

"""The commercial interests of the energy companies were entangled in power relations
that interpenetrated China’s political structure. Huaneng, for example, has been controlled
by the family of former Premier Li Peng, a water conservancy engineer who took an inter-
est in hydropower generation. He was a steadfast supporter of the Three Gorges project
throughout his political career. His son, Li Xiaopeng, also a trained engineer, headed
Huaneng until June 2008, when he was appointed deputy governor of Shanxi Province.
Li Peng’s daughter, Li Xiaolin, is the CEO of Huaneng’s most important subsidiary, China
Power International Development, in Hong Kong (Pomeranz 2009)."""

I wont be surprised if there is a Chinese 'Bridge Czar' somewhere.

Similarly in US there were presidents with strong ties with the energy sectors, military industrial complexes, Wall Streets, etc, and some political decisions were suspected to be lobbied by them. There appears to be a position for 'Bridge Czar' for US at the moment.

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