This One Staggering Statistic About China's Growth Blew Bill Gates Away

Shanghai has risen from the ground in just 20 years. Photo Feng Li/Getty Images

Bill Gates has been looking at the new book by his “favourite author”, historian Vaclav Smil, titled Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, on his blog.

There’s one figure that caught both Smil’s and the Microsoft founder’s attention.

As Gates writes on his blog:

[Smil] argues that the most important man-made material is concrete, both in terms of the amount we produce each year and the total mass we’ve laid down. Concrete is the foundation (literally) for the massive expansion of urban areas of the past several decades, which has been a big factor in cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half since 1990.

In 1950, the world made roughly as much steel as cement (a key ingredient in concrete); by 2010, steel production had grown by a factor of 8, but cement had gone up by a factor of 25.

Then Gates reveals the detail that shocked both him and Smil. In just 3 years, China has used more concrete than the USA used in the previous century; 50% more in fact.

He tweeted it too.

Read Bill’s full blog on the book here.

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