Ever since the Wemzhou train crash, people have started paying more attention to Chinese economic geographer Lu Dadao.Lu issued a report last year warning of an unsafe and unsustainable push to build infrastructure around the country.
Here are his latest comments in an interview with Caixin:
First, look at expressway construction. In 2008, the nationwide total mileage plan was adjusted up to 100,000 kilometers. That year alone we built 6,433 kilometers and invested a total 600 billion yuan. Nationwide expressway mileage is expected to grow to a staggering 180,000 kilometers, if we add provincial and national building plans. Personal vehicle traffic levels are too low on some expressways built over the past five years. Considerable stretches of expressways completed in central and western regions are usually empty, simply basking in the sun. Thus, expressway construction has suffered from excessive expansion. It’s gotten out of control.
Second, over-expansion for coastal port development planning and construction has clearly led to excessive competition between ports. China’s port throughput capacity reached 4 billion tons in 2008, yet coastal communities continue to compete in the race to build large-scale berth and shipping container ports. Every port authority makes lofty claims about becoming a coastal or international hub for commercial shipping.
Additionally, many regional airports are being built blindly, with huge investments but no feasibility studies. This has led to major losses. In 2008, national subsidies to small- and medium-sized airports reached 9.3 billion yuan. But by 2020, we’ll have added another 100 or so airports, mainly regional airports. Every year recently, construction has begun on about 20 regional airports, and more are waiting to be approved.
Moreover, there’s been a surging wave of railway construction projects, including intercity rail linking big cities, suburbs and small cities in some provinces, regions and municipalities. Our research group found there will not be enough traffic to support the big, city-centered railway transportation systems after they are completed.
Lu blames local governments for starting big infrastructure projects in order to boost production. He says governments will often base a project on long-term demand projections, even though it will be unfeasible in the near-term. Read the full interview at Caixin.
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