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Frequent Bridge Collapses Help Boost China’s GDP

Economic wisdom from a rather surprising place:

Since 2007, 15 bridges have collapsed in China. Only three of them were more than 15 years old at the time of their collapse, according to a report by the Shandong Business Daily.

On Aug. 24, a 330-footlong approach ramp of Harbin’s Yangmingtan Bridge fell over, killing three and injuring five. The bridge had been in use less than a year and is the eighth bridge collapse in China this year. The Harbin administration has so far not openly addressed the case.

Zhao Wenjin, the lead commentator of Lanzhou Daily, commented on the incident, saying, “With each collapse, we need to reflect: why are we chasing GDP?”

According to a Jingyang Net report, Wang Yang, Party secretary of Guangdong Province, said at a provincial Party meeting in 2009: “Sometimes the GDP number looks good, but it didn’t really create wealth for society. It was, instead, a waste of society’s wealth.

“For example, building a bridge creates GDP. When the bridge collapses and is taken down, it creates another addition to the GDP. When the bridge is rebuilt, more GDP is created. As such, one bridge resulted in three additions to the GDP. But it was a tremendous waste of resources.”

Mainland media Chinese Business Daily said that sticks and pebbles were found in the concrete that made up the Yangmingtan Bridge, and the metal wires on the surface were also not tied together properly.

The headline above the article that the above paragraphs come from reads: Frequent Bridge Collapses Help Boost China’s GDP.

My thanks to Sean Corrigan of the Cobden Centre for sending out the multi-recipient email that told me about this story.

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11 comments to Frequent Bridge Collapses Help Boost China’s GDP

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – astonishing though it seems, they (the Chinese leadership) seem to understand what David Cameron (and other Western leaders) do not understand.

    “GDP” is nonsense.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    All together now: “M. Bastiat, please call the office.”

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    So communists were not just being incompetent when they made shoddy goods under Mao- they were practicing an early form of planned obsolescence!

  • Tedd

    I guess from now on we can call it the “parable of the broken bridge.”

  • Alisa

    In the long run all bridges break down.

  • phwest

    Just as the map is not the territory, metrics are only a view of the underlying reality, not that reality itself. The goal of economic growth is to increase the overall standard of living. GDP is a decent measure of this, as long as the goal of policy is to improve the standard of living. When you forget that, and focus only on the metric, is when you end up doing stupid things like building empty cities and consuming wealth to generate cash flow.

    Ditto with employment – a society in which everyone can meet their needs working 10 hours a week is better off that one where everyone must work 40, regardless of what that does to measures like hours worked.

  • Russ in Texas

    @Porlockianguy: let’s make it into a meme game. I think we could popularize “Bastiat” as a response, sort of like some people will now call “Godwin.”

  • Mose Jefferson

    The perpetual government construction project signs around my city all have the rather optimistic phrase “putting Oregon back to work”.

    Funny, but it somehow never seems to work.

  • Paul Marks

    True Alisa – but the “long run” did not use to be a couple of years.

    There are Roman bridges that are still standing – after a couple of thousand years.

    Although, to be fair, the whole of the economy if the West is about to fall apart – over the next couple of years.

    The “long run” has arrived – Lord Keynes is indeed dead (has been since 1946), pity about the rest of us.

  • Might I suggest that the key problem here is not so much with the GDP, but that with the fact that China’s bridges collapse (and indeed their trains crash, and let’s not even think about their dams).

  • John W

    Best way to improve GDP would be to start a world war!
    Who cares about the standard of living except unenlightened running-dogs like Bastiat!? – smash a window today and ‘stimulate the economy’- you know it makes sense!