Clear blue skies over Beijing! The weather’s not quite as cold as I’d expected either, though I’m sure that the mercury will begin a rapid descent as evening arrives. My flights haven’t been as stressful as I’d expected either given that the Lunar New Year Holiday is fast approaching. Facial recognition systems at airport security check points dramatically reduce the waiting times for everyone.
China is justifiably proud of the capacity it has built up to handle an estimated 3 billion trips during the holiday period. No other country comes anywhere near matching the scale, efficiency, and convenience of its transportation infrastructure. Its high speed trains, in particular, put the rest of the world to shame.
If countries in the developed world are serious about leading the way in building zero-carbon economies, they need to start with massive investments in mass transit systems to reduce dependency on privately-owned vehicles. Sure, the short-term cost will be huge, but so too will be the long-term returns in terms of reduced congestion, lower emissions, increased convenience, and more rapid economic growth.
China’s massive expansion of its transportation networks has also played a key role in slashing the poverty rate, particularly in rural areas. According to World Bank statistics, 730 million people were able to lift themselves above the poverty line between 1995 and 2015. By the end of 2017 the country’s rural poor population had dropped to just 30 million from 98.99 million in 2012, and has continued to decrease since then.
These are remarkable achievements that the rest of the world would do well to learn from if it is to tackle the growing economic and social polarization that is occurring in so many different companies and generate sustainable growth. Of course, funding and execution models will vary from country to country, but China provides the right lessons for them to follow.