Mao Xedong’s austere brand of communism long gone, the Chinese have stampeded to embrace worldly goods — especially the car. Thus, The New York Times recently reported, the residents of Shanghai "have displayed an American-style passion for the automobile."
Despite predictable results — unmanageable gridlock, pollution, stress, and marathon commutes — "nothing seems capable of stopping, or even slowing, the rapid rise of a car culture."
As reported in Friday’s Tribune, Chinese oil demand is likely to triple by 2025, while oil demand in India is expected to more than double. This soaring demand is helping drive the upward spiral of oil prices — and U.S. gasoline prices.
Typically central planning, the hallmark of communist governments, doesn’t work, and the plan for Shanghai traffic — plenty of new highways and an extensive new subway system — didn’t either. The Times said it was predicated on reaching a threshold of 2 million cars by 2020; the level was reached last fall.
In a "where have we heard that before" moment, the Times said the Chinese equate owning a car with "personal freedom, prestige and success." Go figure.
The Times found an automotive Everyman in Yu Qiang who was enthusiastic about a planned new expansion of the subway system: "I’m hoping many other people will ride it so that the traffic will get better," because he personally planned to keep driving.
Those Chinese. Just can’t get them out of their cars.