China is a massive force in the global economy. According to Bloomberg,
China is the world’s largest producer of steel. It accounted for 49.18 percent of worldwide crude steel production in May, according to the World Steel Association. Japan, the second-largest producer, accounted for 7.06 percent, the data showed.
And the USA? We are the third largest producer of raw steel, behind Japan, producing less than 15% of what China makes each year.
What does China do with all this steel? It produces a giant, modern nation with an enormous urban infrastructure. I recently bought this excellent book (a few years old, but it was $3.99 / used plus shipping) called “Shanghai: The Architecture of China’s Great Urban Center“. Shanghai has an immense number of skyscrapers – so many that there are debates about the exact count – but the list per Wikipedia shows that Shanghai held the title of world’s tallest skyscraper until beaten by Dubai and there are an immense number of very tall structures in the city, all built in the last 20-25 or so years.
This article in today’s NY Times about a bicycle service that is thriving in Portland, Oregon due to its lower carbon footprint shows the “dream” view of capitalism held by those in the left in the USA.
However, while the bucolic bicyclist delivery driver making his rounds to fair-trade coffee shops seems like a worthy economic topic, it is in fact the opposite of efficiency when compared to the real-world efforts in China which dwarf our physical economy components. The US can compete in services and in software but we are getting blown away in the physical world which China’s steel production and immense cities sprouting from the ground show clearly.
The small-scale craft economies have an absolute place in the world, but there also is room for world-class efficiency which only can come from large-scale investments in steel, construction, and advanced building techniques, which also include time-to-market. The US is losing our ability to compete in these spheres while the Chinese continue to innovate – the evidence of which is all too visible for anyone traveling through their new cities when compared to their US counterparts.
Cross posted at LITGM