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Beipanjiang Bridge, suspended 565m above China’s south-west mountains [video] (bbc.com)
169 points by mudil on July 9, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

What an incredible achievement. Every time I see China's engineering marvels, or any visible statistics of its progress, I feel a slight tinge sadness as an Indian citizen. In India, such feats are few and far between and if you account the time taken to complete them, the scenario is even more depressing.

Chenab bridge, touted as soon-to-be world's tallest railway bridge, for instance, was scheduled to completed by 2009. Work halted due to safety concerns, but began again an year later. The date was, then, shifted to 2015 and now, the newer estimate suggest it will be completed by 2019 [1]. I am not sure if we'll be able to abide by that too.

Democracy might give people something to cheer about, but, for a country fraught with inefficiencies, it does make progress awfully slow.

[1]: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/...

I'm an American and I understand too. We are living through the decades where America gave away its leadership in the world. We can't get anything accomplished at a reasonable price in reasonable time.

For example, China built 14,000 miles of high-speed rail in about 15 years, with another 10,000 on the way. In America we still haven't built our first line. Every time the discussion comes up, it degenerates into people explaining all the places it won't work.

Not to worry for India, in 50 years it will be better off than today. It might even pass the US.

> I'm an American and I understand too. We are living through the decades where America gave away its leadership in the world. We can't get anything accomplished at a reasonable price in reasonable time

It's not that we can't get it accomplished reasonably, you'd be amazed at how fast and cheaply major projects can be developed if funding is properly structured. It's rather that we've wasted our treasure on other things. Jack Ma had an interesting comment at Davos[1] - what would the US be like if we had spent the $14 trillion we've wasted on war and wall street bailouts on infrastructure, research, and education in the Midwest?

[1] http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/18/chinese-billionaire-jack-ma-s...

$14T is an absurd exaggeration of the budgetary costs of post-9/11 wars and post-2008 bailouts. The entire Iraq war/post-war cost $800B, most of the TARP bailout money was paid back. You can claim there were huge knock-on costs to the economy for either if you like, but skipping either or both would not have given the US Government trillions to spend on Midwestern infrastructure.

> The entire Iraq war/post-war cost $800B

Source? The Congressional Research Service published a report in 2014 stating $1.6 trillion as the cost of war. Every other article I could find suggests this number is far too low and estimates $2-6 trillion.




I've encountered the Brown article before. Averaging the $3.6 trillion spent to-date since 2001, we're spending $240 billion per year on war in the Middle East.

For perspective:

* Hillary Clinton's campaign platform included a decent infrastructure bill - allocating $250 billion over 10 years.

* NIH is estimated to spend $8 billion this year on cancer and cardiovascular research - the leading causes of death in America, killing over 1 million people each year.

This Wikipedia article suggests about $800B. But the Reuters article you cite says $2T to $6T is the eventual cost.


Accounting is a creative endeavor.

Sorry but your $800bn figure is bullshit. I'd highly recommend reading The Three Trillion Dollar War: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Trillion_Dollar_Wa...

Even moderate estimates put it at about $5 Trillion, the most conservative at $3 trillion, with the high end (reality) at $8+.

One huge cost people completely ignore is the cost of health care for the vets we bring back who suffer from a huge number of physical and mental issues. It's also one we'll be paying for the next 40-50 years.

It isn't bullshit. It's the actual budgetary cost of the war to date, and it's nowhere near $14T.

As I said, you can project all sorts of future costs, or costs to the broader economy. But $14T is a nutty figure to claim was available to spend in lieu of wars and bailouts.

It is bullshit even at current costs, $800bn is no where close to accurate, 14 trilion is by several factors a much closer number, considering most of the budget has been appropriated off budget as another person said. But if you read my comment, you'll see I have more accurate numbers.

Additionally, to ignore future costs is absolutely how we end up spending incredible amounts war mongering and passing the deficit to future administrations and people. If we correctly calculated the costs it would've been seen as outrageous. What you're saying is analogous to buying a car but not factoring in the cost of interest, when that interest payment is 25%, and the cost of maintenance and repair.

You provide zero proof to backup your claim as well. Show me something to change my mind, or read the linked book and educate yourself. Spouting lies does nothing valuable for society or yourself. Let it be known my degree is in economics, I'm not spouting off some list of bullshit facts from a "documentary" video on Youtube.

> It's the actual budgetary cost of the war to date

Given that the entire war(s) have been funded off-budget I'm not sure I would accept a budgetary figure as given.

Wall Street bailouts were necessary to keep our country and economy intact. Most if not all of the money has been paid back. Agree on the war part though, it sucks that we spent so much on it.

And this will never change. I live in the DC area and when you live here, you see how much of our economy in America is dependent on our ability to continue fighting wars.

The military industrial complex is so out of control and bloated, we can't help but keep fighting wars to feed all these thousands of jobs going.

Very worrying state of affairs.

Is it intact? Or did the money blisters just move?

I don't think Iraq or Afghanistan got those $14 trillion. Iraqi infrastructure is worse than it was under Saddam, and society is much poorer... and in civil war.

The money went to friends of corrupt US administrations and military contractors. That is 14,000 billion dollars stolen from American workers and shoved into the pockets of filthy rich white men.

It's also a problem that our culture is so damn obsessed with cars, which we have in part to thank the auto industry shoving itself down consumers throats, lobbying, and running into the dirt other viable modes of transportation for almost a century. I'd take sophisticated, public transportation and efficient inter regional lines any day over American Car Culture.

I just don't think you can lament the state of inter regional transportation in the US without talking about our country's very unique obsession and history with the auto industry.

> America gave away its leadership in the world

More specifically, CEO's of American corporations with a time horizon of at most 5 years.

Maybe it's more likely a competition between 2 different democracies as opposed to authoritarian vs democracy which main stream media often sell to public. Let me explain.

Contrary to most western audience's belief, Democracy is also a value promoted by CPP , at least literally. But the meaning of democracy is quite different. The one in India focus on equal voting from everybody , in China such practice is only gradually implemented in some area recently, but what CPP emphasize more is collective decision making by a group of participants not a dominant chief officer.

As to select policy maker/politician , Chinese system evolved to a very different systematic procedure with some democracy factors (i.e. selected by vote, but not by average people). See a TED speech:


The consequence of the difference is "democratically elected" policy makers are good story tellers finally win the voters . Usually they are former Lawyer, Journalist who are very good at articulating and performing to gain higher votes, live in their own alternative reality sometime lead to war. As a comparison, typical Chinese officials are usually not so good looking , even can not speak fluently without a speech note, more likely trained as engineers with better understanding facts , less influenced by ideology. But they are in that position for a better reason: They have some track record of accomplishment.

From Machine learning point of view, India democracy looks like a simple one layer Perceptron with equal weights on all inputs, Chinese "democracy" is a forward feed neural network with a very small hidden layer with the weights somehow adjusted.

Good luck to India people.

> Democracy is also a value promoted by CPP , at least literally. But the meaning of democracy is quite different. The one in India focus on equal voting from everybody , in China such practice is only gradually implemented in some area recently, but what CPP emphasize more is collective decision making by a group of participants not a dominant chief officer.

> As to select policy maker/politician , Chinese system evolved to a very different systematic procedure with some democracy factors (i.e. selected by vote, but not by average people)

What you are describing is some kind of collegial governance, but absolutely not a democratic government. Contrary to what you are saying, voting systems that exclude the "average people" are literally undemocratic.

Now, you can very well argue that democracy isn't the best or most efficient system, but the Chinese system just isn't democratic, and is not really leaning towards it either.

> Contrary to what you are saying, voting systems that exclude the "average people" are literally undemocratic.

Well that's somewhat of a moving goal post. Was the US not a democracy at it's inception because only land owners were allowed to vote? What about before black people and women were allowed to vote? Were Britain and Germany not democracies at the outbreak of WW2?

Most importantly of all, were the ancient Athenians not democratic? The average person was a slave, but the did define what democracy meant.

The CPP is a one party system and anything but Democratic. To dissent or attempt to form another political party is illegal. Whether the election process within the CPP is Democratic doesn't matter, the vast majority of citizens have no vote.

China is a classic communist dictatorship with a few Democratic elements.

China is de facto aristocratic class system. You have 80 million strong communist 'noble' families. Well performing people from lower class can get 'the title' and become part of ruling class, but mostly the status is inherited.

China actually has several other parties than Communist party, for example Chinese Kuomintang, China Democratic League etc. But they are small meritocratic ally selected (only 100,000 members and must be intellectual) support parties. Communist party still rules.

In principle people outside the system can be elected. If I remember only one person has been able to get trough in 20 years and all independent candidates are harassed ruthlessly.

Party members are definitely not noble families. When the country's mass lay off happened at the turn of the century, the party members are the first to be laid off, as examples for other people. And planned birth is more strictly enforced on party members. The party membership doesn't really bring any good unless you're already well connected.

The Chinese people work wonders because they believe they can work wonders if they work hard. This is pretty much the American Dream as I understood it. That's why I always imagined that the Chinese government has much in common, and thus can work well with a GOP government. People are urged to work hard for a better life, not relying (too much) on social securities.

It's hard to tell if democracy is fundamentally better than whatever its alternative is. You know, no offense, DT can be elected. With enough manipulation, all Chinese government heads can be elected as well, even under a democratic system.

I'm from Germany, often considered the country of quality engineering and just look at our airport: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Brandenburg_Airport#Del...

tl;dr: Planned to open in 2011, it's still in construction with some say it won't open before 2020.

It seemed like the project was started with unclear/unvetted requirements, led by bureaucracy and image instead of engineering. China tends to do things the other way around.

That smoke exhaust system seems absurd - I don't know how the architectural plans even left the design phase. It should have been isolated and designed such that it could be replaced with a conventional approach cheaply.

The rest of the project sounds like a deadline-driven fixed-resource software project with incompetent management - hacks and cut corners everywhere.

Unfortunately infrastructure bureaucrats aren't as forgiving as software customers...

Heh, funny but not that long time (started in 2006, planned to be finished by 2020), while Sagrada Familia (here in Barcelona) started at 1882 and after stopping/starting/stopping forever, it's not estimated to be finished by 2026–2028 (so about 140 years, if accurate).


That's not too bad. A lot of old cathedrals would take multiple generations to build...Notre Dame for example took over 200 years to build.

I've often wondered about India's remarkable lack of progress compared to China. I would be interested in reading more about the causes.

Seriously impressive bridge.

(It's a video a few minutes long and worth watching. I rarely watch videos on news sites, but glad I watched this one.)

Ditto; great video. Got to love such great feats of engineering.

Great video and editing.

What China has achieved is truly incredible. For anybody young and commitment free (or even just commitment free), you should go there. Cool people, so much opportunity, and you get to live in the heart of a rising super-power.

Also, that guy speaks Chinese like an excited teenager.

The infrastructure projects alone are fascinating to me. It's like traveling back in time to witness Eisenhower's interstate highways going up in the 1960s, only bigger and better.

> that guy speaks Chinese like an excited teenager

So, in the modern American documentary interview style even when everyone's speaking English, then?

Unfortunately, while the Chinese people are fantastic, the most recent round of government repression has made it extremely difficult to live and do business there as a foreigner- and of course, the very air is frequently poisonous.

> For anybody young and commitment free (or even just commitment free), you should go there.

Are there english speaking startups one could work at? Are work-permit requirements doable?

Strikingly is a YC-funded company based in Shanghai. We sponsor visa. Typically, a person with 2 years of working experience can get work visa issued in few weeks.

We are hiring people in engineering, sales and marketing departments https://www.strikingly.com/s/careers

There are tons of foreigners in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen so there must be some ways to get into the country (and work there).

A few years back a friend told me work permit was easy to get as long as you got a sponsor. Not sure how hard it is today though.

He might have lived there in country a while and simply copying a popular style of light reporting. It's not unusual.


Your view is binary and doesn't reflect reality. I've lived in China 9 years. Despite an oppressive government, the ingenuity and perseverance of the people can't be completely contained. I absolutely do not condone the Chinese government's behavior, but that doesn't mean I will write off an entire region of over a billion people in one simplistic swoop.

> there's no such thing as 'cool' in china except dictated by the government. People in China are mainly concerned with making money, and getting the heck out of China.

Lived there for 5 years, hung out with some great people and some great adventures.

There are a billion people so, of course, YMMV, but perhaps you're the reason for your bad experience?

I agree with the getting the heck out part though. Unless you've a good job, or another way to float above a surface of society still broken from Mao's tragic destruction, China can grind you down.

Really impressive bridge to drive over. Our bus driver (regular travel bus) stopped on the bridge so people could take pictures. Nobody could tell us why he stopped on the bridge. We figured only afterwards that it is the worlds highest bridge we drove on.

I find it fascinating that (pressure) grouting is shown as something revolutionary and new here.

Thanks for posting this - I use the BBC site from the UK and wouldn't have seen it otherwise as it's on the .com site. Also interesting to see the comments about the reporter's Chinese.

An engineering marvel, but most likely an economic white elephant. The New York Times recently had a more critical report on China's bridges [0]

China is addicted to infrastructure projects to boost its GDP. The problem is that these projects in aggregate produce a poor economic return, so China's debt as a percentage of GDP is growing unsustainably. At some point it will be forced to have a painful adjustment to lower growth, especially for investment spending.

Personally I find Larry Summers analysis pursuasive when he argues that China will most likely achieve 4% growth over next two decades [1]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/world/asia/china-bridges-...

[1] http://www.nber.org/digest/mar15/w20573.html

It is unsustainable long-term, but it's a reasonable model to follow. Build today while the cost is cheaper, create a larger general economy and then coast for a while. Japan also spent decades boosting GDP with huge infrastructure projects. They can't sustain them anymore and in some areas are starting to dismantle some of the excess but the Japan of today is much nicer place to have a flat economy than the Japan of the 40s or 50s.

Does it take into account the benefits of developing large scale engineering and construction expertise?

In many ways the United States Apollo program was also a white elephant as a space program of that scale was economically unsustainable, however, it had a huge impact on accelerating pace of technology development.


The Beipangjiang's twin is the Nanpangjiang, which is a fascinating tributary to the Pearl River Delta and one of the longest rivers in China by total flow length. It is followed in part by the French narrow-guage railway from Haiphong to Kunming and also spanned by some amazing bridges and these days many dams. Southwest China is really impressive topographically.

Can someone explain the statement about the length of the cables (in the section starting about 2:48) that they'd stretch from Beijing to New York if laid end to end? It seems so obviously false (there's, what, a few dozen of them, maybe a hundred?) that I assume I'm missing something.

Suspension bridge cables are made of smaller cables. And those smaller cables are made of yet smaller cables. For example: http://regex.info/i/JEF_042406.jpg

That's my guess.

Ohhh that totally makes sense. That image really illustrates the point well, too! Thanks!

Wow, just wow. I knew about this bridge but didn't really realise it is so impressive. The view is just spectacular.

I can't wait to arrange a trip there.

!Woah¡ without words... It's amazing.

I like how the reporter speaks Chinese. Usually it's english only, which i suppose is translated off screen for the local being interviewed.

I don't watch much BBC so i don't know if that changed lately. It's a change for the better imo.

It seemed to me that he was interjecting with arbitrary comments, just to show off that he speaks Chinese. I didn't think it added to the video at all.

Chinese speaker here. His comments were all over-the-top excited, repeating and exaggerating others' words, almost like mocking the Chinese staff (see around 2:20 mark for example.) Think Borat-speak. Seemed very strange and unfit for this otherwise good piece.

> It seemed to me that he was interjecting with arbitrary comments

No, he's having fluent and meaningful exchange of words with those interviewees.

> Chinese speaker here

You're definitely not a native speaker.

> almost like mocking the Chinese staff

I'm not sure why you interpreted it that way but there's absofreakinglutely no mocking people in there, hey.

All of those whom he interviewed were speaking Mandarin with different degrees of accents and apparently the guy has some pretty decent level of command of the language so he can still converse with most of them no problem. The last one he interviewed (starting from 03:30) spoke with a heavily accented version of Mandarin so even I had to pay attention to understand like, 80% of what he was saying; the reporter probably had issues understanding him as well so he just smiled and nodded. Overall I found the reporter's usage of Mandarin as well as his interaction with others to be very natural.

I am a native Mandarin speaker.

I agree, Feels very natural and comfortable speaking Chinese.

I think he's just trying to sound excited, to make the video more compelling.

Hey, I never questioned his fluency, just not being able to speak in a professional/serious tone to match the other people. If you liked it, great. Also, you're assuming too much about a 鄉民 on the Internet. :)

Another way of looking at it: respect. In the past, translators were always used on news stories from China. Now, English speakers are going through the effort to learn Chinese because they know it is in their best interests as China ascends to the spot of the(!) world superpower.

Now I can pinpoint which province of China you come from:)

That is just how these interviews are done by the BBC. It would be the same if both participants were in the UK speaking English.

I think it's perhaps because the BBC does a lot of educational material aimed, at least partially, at children and schools, and the presenters are trained to be very exaggerated and enthusiastic in their reactions. Experts like scientists and engineers can be quite placid in their delivery, and so the presenter's job is to make whatever it is they're talking about seem more "exciting". E.g. some engineering project, scientific experiment, historical fact, etc.

Really? I think its fine. Pretty normal response from a layperson being impressed by a major engineering feat without being interested to dig too deep into the technicals.

Maybe a bit of pandering, but I think he is just trying to be polite, but I don't see any sign of mocking.

FWIW, if the BBC reporter were also chinese and speaking the same dialect, then his excited remarks would not be viewed as mocking. Similar gushing happens on other Asian variety shows. I would say the perception of him condescending his interviewees has more to do with the insecurity of the viewers[1] than it does with the presenter.

[1]"Man of Race-or-Country Y is exaggerating something in our language? Race-or-Country Y must be looking down on us!"

It's not just foreigner either, you'll get a similar level of interaction with someone who speaks very unaccented Mandarin coming to an area where people normally speak a different language (there's dozens in China) and don't speak Mandarin nearly as fluently.

Sort of like mocking hick accents in the US, real funny until you're talking with someone who actually has a hick accents, and then it's just kinda mean.

It's not intentional I'm sure. Just that the tone mismatch, serious/professional local speakers vs. over-excited/happy interviewer, were off-putting.

Well you have to take in to account that they both know that he will put on a show for the camera. Both men obviously knows they are being filmed.

But from a certain point of view(where you assume this is just a normal conversation between two people), i can see what you mean.

Think you're reading too much into it. His behaviour and inflection is what you get if you were to splice polite British reporter mien with an idiomatic way of speaking Chinese. Fun to watch in its own right.

Don't think there's any malice there, must be hard to context-switch between speaking a non-native language while interviewing for a foreign audience.

EDIT: if you've watched other BBC productions, the level of enthusiasm would be familiar. I think it is a BBC company culture/style thing. Drawing a blank at the moment, had someone very specific in mind, but maybe anything by Clare Balding, Sue Barker or Lizo Mzimba though none of these are the person I have in my mind...

It is a bit over-enthusiastic but I don't think there is any mocking going on there. I as a layperson would act the same if I were the reporter.

(I'm a native Mandarin speaker.)

Native mandarin speaker here.

I agree with you that this reporter really didn't add to the conversation. Like you said, it is more of repeating/exaggerating.

Programs like this can be paid to make with purpose of showcasing a government project instead of actual "reporting".

This is par for the course on any "Great Feats of Engineering" show, English or not.

I came here to say this too.

All to often TV has an interpreter and is editing together to make the interviewer seem like they understand. Even worse, the interviewer reads the question in English and then the interviewee responds in the native language, clearly having been told the question already.

It's wonderful to see people having a normal interaction in a language that isn't English.

Lots of people are saying he's from the BBC, but is he?

The video is a "Lion Television / All3 Media production for JSBC"

Lion Television is a UK TV production company.

All3 Media are "content creators".

JSBC is Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation.

So, I don't know if we can say anything about the BBC from that interviewer.

We can say the BBC have many foreign correspondents (although their have been drastic cuts), who spend long times in the countries they report on. When you hear reports from foreign correspondents (eg, BBC radio 4's "Letter From Our Own Correspondent") you'll hear them speaking non-English languages and providing a translation.

Complaints about cuts to the foreign correspondents: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/oct/21/bbc-foreign-co...

From Our Own Correspondent page, with many downloadable podcasts: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qjlq

I thought the same and then was less impressed realising he was Australian.

What China has achieved is truly incredible. I knew about this bridge but didn't really realise it is so impressive. The view is just spectacular.


That's a beautiful bridge though.

Yeah, let's be snarky, one bridge collapse during construction means the whole country cannot build a decent bridge.

Some of the longest and most used suspension bridges are in China, and they've been in use for years in major cities like Shanghai.

Here is a list of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, look at how many of them are in China:


I don't need to be sold on China and their incredible achievements. Have visited, enjoyed my time there.

It was meant as lighthearted snark, since the bridge collapse only just happened a few days ago. I'm sorry it didn't come across right.

Yeah no problem, that makes sense, to be fair I've personally seen Chinese companies cutting corners as far as safety goes.

I don't know what's more impressive, their capability to achieve super high quality at low cost or their capability to achieve unsafe quality at even lower cost...

The fenghuang bridge collapse a few years ago caught my attention. Definitely corruption that took it down with 40+ workers.

But I've travelled on these bridges and don't think they are unsafe. The expressway ones at least seem to be supervised much more closely.

There is very little provided for the reason for building the bridge. Doing a massive construction project so that some potato farmer can carry his goods to neighboring village seems unwarranted. Is there some industry or something that can use the bridge, or maybe it has some strategic value?

The purpose of all the infrastructure projects in the periphery is to tie China together, allow economic opportunities in the periphery, and promote trade, travel and migration between different parts of China.

To grossly simplify it, China is a lot less of a single nation than it claims to be. Historically, it was a collection of states that were bound together into a single empire, but most places still retained local identity over the imperial one, and most Chinese dynasties failed not because external pressures were raised to insurmountable level, but rather because the thin fabric tying the states together fell apart and the empire just disintegrated.

The CPC sees this, not any external threat or national level domestic challenger, as the primary threat and problem facing them in the future. To fix it, they employ a policy of trying to integrate the periphery by building infrastructure in such a way to make it easier to travel between provinces than it is to travel inside provinces, so that new economic structures arise which make the people in one province dependent on people in other provinces, and so that travel and marriage of people across the provinces would in the long term make the distinctions fade away.

China bashers often talk about things like how much abject poverty or wealth inequality there still is, or their demographic problems, or malinvestment. Sure, these are problematic, but if you use a little imagination, initiatives like this maybe don't look so dumb.

I think Chinese political and economic leadership is absolutely world class and may some day be viewed by historians as the best the world has ever seen, especially if you consider both the breadth and speed of their accomplishments.

I can certainly sympathize with this viewpoint and even share it in some ways. However, I think it's a bit hyperbolic to call them world-class when you view their accomplishments through a lens that accounts for their human rights violations and atrocities. Very few governments in the world can claim to be completely void of these violations, but China is particularly egregious in this regard.

> human rights violations and atrocities

Are they really though? Indeed they abuse political dissidents and disallow free speech, but are there really that many people that violate these rules any more?

It's a valid worldview to say "that doesn't matter", but not everyone agrees with that stance. A (mostly) benevolent dictatorship is a perfectly valid form of rule if you ask me.

> Are they really though? Indeed they abuse political dissidents and disallow free speech, but are there really that many people that violate these rules any more?

A kidnap victim getting Stockholm Syndrome doesn't make the kidnapping OK.

Bad rules are a problem even if people follow them.

How many people are actually getting kidnapped is certainly relevant.

And "bad" (often a matter of philosophical opinion) rules may be a problem, but how big of a problem, and should also be compared to the relative success of alternatives, such as "freedom" as enjoyed in the USA, and it's current trajectory of aggregate economic success and personal happiness. Personally, I think China doesn't have very much to be ashamed of, and much to be proud of.

"Kidnapping isn't that bad if it doesn't happen often" as an argument means I'm bowing out at this point.

If deliberately misunderstanding genuine discussion is your approach, it's probably just as well.

No particular insight here, but the bridges and the new roads are all part of the Chinese infrastructure initiative. Besides the new towns being built to replace old ones you also have whole road networks and bridges being built to connect the country. The area where this bridge is consists of mountain after mountain and driving through theee giants is pretty impressive. Same goes for train routes: also over bridges over mountains, through mountains etc. If you look left and right there are NO traditional old buildings, even though it is clearly rice and potatoe farmers you are looking at. And they all have new cars. Working the fields by hand but a car they have...

I don't think you can categorize each bridge for its commercial or strategic value. Before it took you X hours to get from location Y to Z now it is less. It's not about connecting two potatoe farmers it is about connecting the county and modernizing its infrastructure.

These bridges are almost always tolled on express ways. If the potato farmer below doesn't (or can't) pay the toll, then they aren't going to use the bridge. More to the point, this bridge is better for thru traffic and has very little to do with the potato farmer.

A comment made in an a recent NYT article on these new Chinese bridges: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/world/asia/china-bridg...

> "If you don’t build roads, there can’t be prosperity,” said Huang Sanliang, a 56-year-old farmer who lives under the bridge. “But this is an expressway, not a second- or third-grade road. One of those might be better for us here.”

Expressways are sexy and useful if you are driving thru. But...I have the feeling they are overbuilding it in many places while not caring much about the less sexy roads that might improve local lives more. But then, such roads would never be talked about abroad and wouldn't do much for China's prestige (and therefore the official's in charge promotion).

The cars on the expressway have little bearing on the farmers below it. A rice farmer isn't going to be driving a new Audi or even a Toyota, even in rich Zhejiang, but definitely not in guizhou or Hunan.

> If the potato farmer below doesn't (or can't) pay the toll, then they aren't going to use the bridge...A rice farmer isn't going to be driving a new Audi or even a Toyota

In the video, the farmer interviewed talks about walking 15 min across the new bridge instead of the old way of walking 4 hours on the mountain paths with 30-40 kg of potatoes. And even if it wasn't suitable for walking, 50 farmers together can load their sacks of potatoes into an old pickup truck, pay a driver, truck owner and the expressway toll, and still all be better off.

Even if it was intended mainly to improve long distance transport, what would be the point of pricing the local farmers out of using it? It's unlikely to be capacity constrained.

> Expressways are sexy and useful if you are driving thru. But...I have the feeling they are overbuilding it in many places while not caring much about the less sexy roads that might improve local lives more.

IMHO you're having this backward. Without the major infrastructure spearheading the development of this region, there won't be interest (money) to overhaul the local roads and bridges.

That remains to be seen. Right now china is neglecting less sexy infrastructure for more sexy infrastructure in a very centralized non market manner. That's why an ultra modern HSR can be flooded out whenever there is a bit of rain (billions for HSR, much less for basic draimage). Also the model that the expressways are being built (loans paid off with tolls), doesn't transfer at all to local roads and bridges.

The "New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world's longest single-span arch bridge; it is now the third longest" is similarly in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia and was even more so when it was completed in 1977.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_River_Gorge_Bridge

From that very link: "The bridge is crossed by an average of 16,200 motor vehicles per day"

Not that out of the way if people are using it so much

Good transportation opens the way to an improved economy.

One of China's strategic goals is to rely more and more on internal demand for the products it manufactures, rather than on export markets.

That is only possible if regions are well connected, and is part of the reason the Chinese government is spending billions of dollars on highways, high-speed rail, tunnels, bridges and more.

Several years back I remember reading a statistic that for some products (I think it was flat screen TVs) that are produced in the south west of China, it was costlier in both time and money to transport the finished goods from the factory to Shanghai (a major port city) than it was to then ship them from Shanghai to the US.

The other half of that is after you truck it to a store in Shanghai, it's more expensive for the end user to buy (tax on electronics), despite incomes being like 1/5th.

The news needs highest/longest/fastest hence the story.

This is just one of many bridges with remarkably similar construction. It looks like the Chinese have mastered how to put massive bridges wherever needed on schedule and to budget. They are building an interstate highway system and high speed rail out across the whole country, not letting the mountains get in the way. With the exception of ridiculously wealthy oil states, expect China to have the best roads soon.

For a reasonably direct comparison this is like a bridge on a US interstate. The US has 4,000,000+ miles of roads and only has 46,876 miles of interstate, but those interstates are extremely valuable national infrastructure as they significantly reduce long distance transportation costs.

So sure locals can benefit, but that's a side effect.

Notice how there was basically no traffic on it.

Not sure how sustainable it is over 50 years. The US did this 50 years ago. We made miles and miles and miles of highways. The the burbs did this 20 years ago. We build miles and miles of road to each and every house, even if the road gets 20 cars a day.

We are starting to pay the price now, as the maintenance bills come due. The federal gov't paid for the building, but the local is responsible for most of the repair. We can't afford to maintain them.

I do not know the lifespan of this bridge. 50, 75 years? At some point some repairs will be due, and it might cost a lot...

The reporter said the video was taken before it opened, so of course there was no traffic. It's pretty busy a few months later as shown in this video: https://youtu.be/YOkW2h2HTD8

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