I just read a blog post by one of my favorite regular reads these days, James Fallows is talking about the expansion of the Beijing metro system in the time he’s been there and how it’s improved his ability to get around as well as the quality of life.
What struck me is that DC finally has approval to build the Silver line to Dulles international airport with 12 new stations, which has taken years to just get approved and won’t be finished for another 5 years. In three years, Beijing is expected to add 3 more complete lines, plus add 10 or more stops on at least 3 other existing lines.
In the history books (post High school) that I’ve read, I have since learned that one of the largest factors to our ability to win World War II was our ability to out produce the enemy. We outpaced their ability to manufacturer aluminum and other goods, which literally allowed us to absorb losses in a way an encircled enemy could not.
I’m not suggesting we are in such as state with the chinese, indeed I just used them as the example because it came up. I think a similar idea could be made in India, parts of Southeast Asia, etc. We live in an entirely different geo-political reality then World War II, so it’s hard to take the analogy to far, but I find it significant to think about in terms of the United State’s ability to innovate and Get Things Done (as David Allen says).
There are good reason we take longer here in the US. Many involve enviornmental impact studies, economic studies, and forward thinking planning. Other reasons involve fairness through governmental oversight, auditing, and civic engagement. Some of which will not happen in China.
Let’s not say that I think it’s good or bad in either direction. Rather I find it interesting as a data point to say that although we are continuing to grow in size, we are being outpaced in growth by other countries. Fareed Zakaria notes in this New Yorker video, our influence in geo-politics will diminish because other’s are growing, not because we are shrinking. A little food for thought.