The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

China Builds A Temporary Bridge In Seven Days: Baltimore Will Take Years To Rebuild Theirs

I know I’m a broken record on this, but it’s important. China is dynamic. They’re higher tech in general than America or Europe and they have an engineering culture and a belief in technology which we have lost.

The ability to do this sort of thing just doesn’t exist outside of China, to the best of my knowledge. They’re not just better than everyone else, they’re miles better.

It will take years for Baltimore to build a new bridge. Perhaps they should hire a Chinese company to build a temporary one in the meantime.

The Chinese have automated delivery vehicles all over the place. Robots in retail outlets and restaurants. The world’s largest high speed rail network.

The future doesn’t happen in America any more, it happens in China. According to people who visit, there’s also essentially no homelessness.

More than that China is willing to regulate: when delivery workers were abused, China stepped in and mandated better treatment. They also, publicly, built recreation and rest stations for them. During the pandemic they put up temporary hospitals in a week.

And more and more they design at home. This is similar to the switch from Britain to America in the 19th century: at first the Brits kept the design jobs, but increasingly they moved to the US. Of course in that case it was helped by the immigration of engineers and scientists, especially Scottish ones, but the Chinese are doing just fine, now, without a lot of Europeans and Americans. (Though there’s still an idealization of whites, if you’re an engineer or a scientist who wants a job in China and can speak Mandarin, you’ll have a job fast.)

It’s not our world any more. It’s the Chinese.

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Why I Rarely Care About The Events Of the Day


  1. Jan Wiklund

    And look at the railways!

    We are building one in Northern Sweden, with a speed that would it have taken a hundred years to build the main line from Stockholm to Narvik a hundred years ago. The Chinese seem to build a high speed line or two every year:

    They are also building an additional metro line in Stockholm of about 10 km. They started 2020 and it will be finished in 2030. One step today, the next tomorrow. In the sixties they built a 60 km sewer main tunnel in seven years (I know, my father worked with it). Not world record that either, but better than they do today.

    But would you expect? Production has been outsourced and they can’t build with their bare hands.

  2. anon

    I lived in Asia and was saying the same nearly 15 years ago. You will find similar advancements in other Asian countries. Maybe not to the same extent as a superpower like China, but it doesn’t take nearly as long for Korea and Japan to construct railway and subway lines as it takes in the USA. You go to an American city and it takes 20 years to construct things that take no more than a year or so in most Asian countries. The continent of Asia has been more dynamic than the USA for at least the last 20 years. Perhaps 50 years ago there would have been concerns about safety. However, Asians for the most part have bridged that gap and have learned to build safe and reliable technology and infrastructure quickly. A large part of it is Asian culture and the importance of competition, dynamism, and the desire to be the best that is missing in the West. Americans, most of whom have never traveled outside the country, buy into propaganda that China and other countries in Asia and SE Asia are backwards, closed off, and no different from when some of them were there for the Korea or Vietnam wars. They don’t realize that Americans are now the ones living in third world conditions.

  3. anonone

    Yeah, and Mussolini made the trains run on time.

  4. Richard Holsworth

    Yes, gig workers ARE people (in China.)
    February this year: “China issues guidelines for improving gig worker protections
    China’s government issued guidelines on 23 February to improve protection of gig economy workers such as those in ride-hailing and food delivery, Xinhua reported in an article on China Daily’s website. The guidelines offer minimum wage protection, prevention of overwork and ensuring higher labor payment for work done during a holiday.

    China Daily report that China has 84 million workers engaged in new employment forms, and their working conditions have been gradually brought under the spotlight. The government has previously released several documents to protect their rights and interests.”

    November 2022: “How Food Delivery Workers Shaped Chinese Algorithm Regulations

    The language in the provision remains vague, requiring platforms to make sure that algorithms provide workers with adequate compensation and rest and that they “ensure workers’ rights and interests.”

    Despite that vagueness, [China’s largest platforms] have responded to the government outlining steps to lengthen delivery times. Meituan’s response explicitly claims its algorithm chooses the longest among four possible estimated delivery times to display on the order page. emphasized that the “minimum delivery time will not be adopted” and illustrates mechanisms for drivers to request more time in difficult conditions.

  5. different clue

    Is Canada doing better than America in some of these regards? Could Canada or Canadians play a role in saving some parts of Western Civilization through the coming Digital Dark Ages the way the Irish Monks saved some important Western Civ knowledge and information during the last ( pre-Medieval) Dark Ages? Is anyone in Canada thinking in these terms?

    ( In America, some Western Knowledge will be saved by small invisible-in-plain-sight groups of people who are not interested in maintaining American Greatness Exceptionalism).

  6. bruce wilder

    There is no design without manufacturing. To build is to design. Somewhere there is a clip of Steve Jobs explaining how an idea for a product evolves as you try to make the product. He identifies the failure to understand that as the fatal flaw of the executive who replaced him when he left Apple the first time.

    I would say it is the fatal flaw of the MBA-class in general, compounded by the end of social mobility out of the working class and the transformation of the working class into the servant class.

  7. I recall Chinese students with well worn Chinese-English dictionaries grinding out homework assignments in the resident dining hall into the wee hours. I was with them due to challenging courses in mathematics and physics but thankfully did not face a language barrier. I am certain of my inability to replicate my course of study in Chinese.

    I pretty certain that China and Russia will host the gold standard engineering science universities that will be flocked to world wide.

    Sometime in the future, lucky American students in a Chinese university dorm dining hall thumbing through English-Chinese dictionaries into the wee hours …

  8. Feral Finster

    Want to have your mind blown? Watch old videos of the Kaiser Shipyards during WWII.
    For example:

    TL:DW Henry J. Kaiser turned a mudflat by Monterrey, California into five massive shipyards cranking out oceangoing cargo ships like they were popcorn, all in the span of a few months. They were building ships faster than the Germans and Japanese could make torpedoes.

    Not only that, but he had to build the surrounding infrastructure pretty much from scratch, everything from rail lines to housing to day care to parks to utlities.

    And this was just one facility. And it’s not as if there was lots of surplus labor floating around during WWII with nothing better to do.

  9. Z

    Now just imagine if China empowered investors to perform their efficient allocation of capital magic! Huh? That bridge would have been finished in four days! Easy! Maybe three! Possibly even two, depending upon the weather.

    Nothing beats the free market in terms of efficiency. It shouldn’t even need to be said at this point. It’s been totally proven. Just go ahead and pull the string on any Milty Friedman bobble-head doll PhD graduate that the Economic Departments churn out from these exemplary, elite institutions such as the University of Chicago and the Ivy League schools and they’ll all tell you that! Every one of them! These are PhD people, mind you. They’d know! They got textbooks and powerpoints that have sentences in them that state it!


  10. What do the western Oligarch’s fear most?
    Perhaps Latin America, Africa and Asia comprehending the implications of China becoming developed and rich while they remained poor and backwards.

  11. Mark Level

    Tsk tsk, Ian!! I’m with Z on this one– why praise others’ abilities without acknowledging America’s, “The strongest & richest country that has ever existed on Earth,” as our Elite Betters regularly remind us?

    America remains exceptional!! NOBODY can craft Narratives for the proles like the U$A, admit it!! As Karl Rove wisely taught when the new End of History moment arrived, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”– source: GoodReads

    How does creating a crappy little temporary bridge compare to creating entire new, Serial Realities out of soap bubbles & aided by the NYTimes and the other best stenographers that have ever existed. (The ancient Mandarin scribes, nor the Egyptians, nor the medieval monks preserving a fallen “civilization” fail to compare.)

    Now, there may be a little slippage on the margins, I will admit. I just got my latest issue of Harper’s in the mailbox & the cover story is “The End of Hollywood”, the dream factory that inspired Rove alongside the Super Bowls– with the ads for all our great military hardware to kill brown & yellow people, plus the Bit Coin ads to scam stupid people, plus entertainment like the so sexy (even though her body shape resembles a Praying Mantis) & desirable Taylor Swift singing thru vocoders while stimulating the Male (& others’, we are very “diverse”) Gaze like no others can. (Cleopatra was kind of homely and had bad teeth, you know.)

    People don’t attend the Hollywood crap anymore because there’s no story there beyond Identity politics & every “hero” has to have some ID challenge like short, racially indistinct, paraphiliac, mistreated by mom, etc. But hey, we can sell it to the European patsies who are even stupider, more PC & more efete than us obese, red-blooded ‘Muricans!! Just look at Germany helping Israel commit a 2nd genocide out of guilt for the first one, wisely displacing the blame to those evil Palestinians.

    Don’t be a Debby Downer, please Ian!! America’s best days are yet to come!! Just ask Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump or our other great leaders. We can make Reality out of nothing but smoke, soap bubbles & mirrors. Nobody can beat us!!

    If more details are needed, for the low, low fee of $50 per page I can share more proof that the American Century will last a Millenium Plus with any & all doubters!! You will believe! Once we send the $61 billion Ukraine will smash that monster Vlad Putin, Politico just proved it–“The West’s failure to send weapons to Kyiv is helping Putin win his war.”

    Tony Soprano was an exceptional American & his quick & happy departure from life was accompanied with an inspirational song, “Don’t Stop Believing”. That is what we are all here to learn!!

  12. Joe

    Here in the states the ambitious have been sucked into the military and Wall Street for at least thirty years. The fools went into education, social services and the arts. Some of them will even get a small pension eventually. A lot of rural non academic kids are employed by the prison industry. This is only natural as it is the major employer in so many rural counties. Vets for the most part seem to get disability money and decide what to do with their days. Immigrants do most of the dirty work like construction and food service labor. The tech industry and the medical industry still do research here and provide some good jobs for those that achieved in the sciences. The new Bay bridges big bits were brought to San Francisco across the pacific from China it was 2 years behind schedule and the budget doubled in the time it took to build it. My buddy worked on it and was taken off the job for pointing this out to the governor.

  13. Willy

    If you can’t build a bridge that max-profits the plutocracy, then what’s the flippin point? Better yet, make sure it’s a bridge to nowhere. So we can build another one.

    We might wanna be careful. All this talk of stuff being done right in other countries might be enough to make an American plutocrat wanna smash out the Centennial Light Bulb.

  14. Carborundum

    It is not that the US (or Canada) lack the means to build this type of infrastructure in short periods of time. What they/we lack is the will to do so.

    If one follows the timelines for public infrastructure projects (I have) what one will find, among other things, is endless rounds of community engagement and consultations, environmental review, etc. Every one of these represents an opportunity for a project to deviate from timeline and have that deviation amplified by the usual project frictions – and some additional ones particular to current circumstances (labour shortage would be a key example).

    I would say that a lot of the blame for this ultimately can be found by looking in the mirror. I don’t know how it is in the west writ large, but I can tell you that Canadian bureaucrats (Federal and Provincial – less insight into Municipal) have become enormously risk-averse because they face nothing but critique from one group of vocal cranks after another. Their defensive mechanism is to consult excessively, seeking – if not to make everyone happy – to at least be able to say “Everyone was consulted”.

    This isn’t exactly helped by the generally low levels of skill in public administration right now, but I can understand where they’re coming from a bit – if they made loaves of fishes and water of wine, there’d still be a someone looking to go viral bitching about how the fish was endangered and alcohol causes societal harms with an amplifying audience looking for their next hit of misery to wallow in.

  15. mago

    Living in the USSA
    United States of the Self Absorbed
    Living in the US, the USS of A . . .

  16. Seattle Resident

    I suspect a big reason why the elites don’t invest in America to bring about the kind of dynamism is that during the 60’s, when educational and income levels started going up, the people started upheavals with anti-war protests, civil rights, and labor movements demanding a bigger piece of the elites pie, so they pretty much said enough is enough and we are going to discipline them so they don’t threaten our power and our profit margins anymore.

    Speaking of that idealization of whites in China, a white male, who taught high school in Kunming for a bunch of years, told me that the Chinese were very racist against dark skinned people. If they’re going to run the world, they better learn how to work with and engage in fair practices with people who aren’t white or light skinned.

  17. CS

    I will admit that state power in China, much less fettered by opposing politics and property ownership concerns, can be much more efficient in tackling problems like this, and in directing funds and support to economic growth, construction and expansion. The negative impact of state power in China is well documented elsewhere. And the inefficiency and overcost of US bureaucracy is on full display more often than not these days.

    If you want to make a comparison between US and China infrastructure, this is not a valid one.

    The bridge in China had three damaged supports for a few hundred feet of concrete high enough for barge traffic, and a collapsed section of maybe a hundred feet.

    The Francis Scott Key bridge reached nearly two hundred feet in the air in the middle and was a mile and a half long. The collapsed portion runs 1600 feet or better. Since it’s not flat concrete, the truss wreckage is far bulkier and not sitting on the bottom of the passage out of the way.

    But putting up a stretch of pre-fab concrete and shoring up three bridge pylons is not the same as repairing a truss bridge of several thousand tons and a third of a mile long. A better comparison might be the temporary repair to the I-95 overpass in Philadelphia last summer.

  18. Soredemos

    @different clue

    Oh don’t worry, America’s cultural contamination will destroy most of what’s left of the good larts of Canada. And as climate collapse really sets in, at some point well ultimately annex the country outright as part of the Day of the Rake.

    The only bright spot might be the Quebecois, who will likely stubbornly try to maintain some uniqueness.

  19. Willy

    I agree with Seattle Resident. In the 60’s the people started thinking. And not in MAGA cult zombie ways, or in ‘Bernie please get those rich kids off my lawn’ ways, but in anti-materialistic, anti-consumerist, environmentalist, group-minded ways. That time, it wasn’t the usual acceptably small minority of ‘thinkers’ shouting at each other between distant ivory towers, but the mob rabble was getting involved. Can’t have that.

    Be like coming home one day to find the barnyard sheep had taken over the farmhouse. You find the fridge ransacked, lazing around watching the game, not using the toilet properly… You know you can’t just bring in the dogs since all hell would break loose and lots of stuff would get broken. So you gotta get crafty. You gotta coerce them. Make them want to go back to their dusty old paddock.

  20. Soredemos


    He actually didn’t, that’s a myth.

    But regardless, I’m assuming this is a petty drive-by attempt at saying that China is an evil dictatorship without freedom, which 1. no, it actually isn’t, and 2. at this point the American definition of liberty needs to be retired. America has utterly failed itself and its people, and ‘freedom’ is a tired excuse for our chronic failures. If the alternative to our many problems comes at the cost of ‘liberty’, I’m willing to take the hit (and I refuse to accept the false dichotomy on the grounds that ‘a hungry man is not a free man’).

    There’s a line in the Shogun TV show currently airing, that I assume is taken straight from the novel but I can’t recall, to the effect that “you’re so obsessed with your freedom that it’s become your prison”. Shogun is actually kind of dogshit in terms of historical accuracy, but that ultimately doesn’t matter because the book was at its core a very long-form study of the difference between American individualism and Japanese collectivism (that it take place almost two centuries before there even was an America is part of the scattershot accurary. It’s doubtful an English pirate in 1600 would share the same philosophy of liberty as an American centuries later. But again, strict historical authenticity isn’t the point). I suspect most Americans don’t get this at all and just think it’s a show about tits and medieval elite backstabbing.

  21. someofparts

    Time to change the name of this country from USA to Pequod.

  22. ProNewerDeal

    China’s Socialism “with Industrial Capitalist characteristics”. Not FIRE & rentier monopolist dominated like Murica.

  23. different clue

    Here is an interesting video about an impressive highway in Szechuan Province, China.
    Both the highway and the landscape itself are impressive.

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