China has 1.3 billion people. Two posts ago, I noted that India will soon pass China — but for now China is #1. As an indicator of how many people are in China, consider this traffic jam outside Beijing (article from today’s Washington Post):
So of course you know where I’m going with this to get context — Google Earth.
When, I wonder, will newspapers provide GPS coordinates for their stories to help interested readers follow along? I had to look up the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway (which was not easy to spell), and then when that didn’t help, I looked up Zhangjiakou itself, and I found roughly where the traffic jam is, on the road that connects Zhangjiakou and Beijing:
Now, Zhangjiakou (I can spell it now!) is about 100 miles NW of Beijing. And reports say that the traffic is about 60 miles long, so the traffic jam stretches more than half of the way along the yellow highway circled in orange above.
And it looks like there are no roads you can take to get off of that highway!
So if you are a trucker stuck on the highway, this is the scene:
And this creates a captive market that local people can exploit:
I actually got the idea to look up the city of Zhangjiakou from the caption in the picture above. It’s amazing to me how many huge cities there are in China — many of which I have never heard of before. According to one source, as of 2002, there were 171 cities in China with more than a million people.
By comparison, in the US, there are currently nine cities with more than a million people.
Yet, the US has more cars than China. One prediction says there will be 200 million cars in China by 2020, whereas the US, as of 2006, had over 240 million cars (not counting big trucks and motorcycles).
China will be building roads to keep up for a while. And what about the pollution that comes with a car lifestyle? Can/should every Chinese person aspire to have a car? If even half get a car, that would be 600,000,000 new cars. The numbers in China boggle the mind.