Red Road Rising
1st March, 2005
Can the world survive China’s burgeoning love affair with the automobile?
In 1990 there were just 1 million cars on Chinese roads. 14 years later that number has rapidly risen to 12 million, and this year alone a further 2.4 million new cars will be added.
In itself, that’s a lot of new cars, but the figures take on an altogether greater significance when you realise where this trend might lead. Currently China still only has eight vehicles per thousand residents, whereas Brazil has 122, countries in western Europe have an average of 584, and in the US there are a massive 940 cars for every thousand residents. As Chinese environmentalist Liang Congjie says: ‘If each Chinese family has two cars like US families, then the cars needed by China, something like 600 million vehicles, will exceed all the cars in the world combined. That would be the greatest disaster for mankind.’ But is it realistic to see such a figure being met, or is it just doom-mongering? After all, 85 million Chinese still live on less than 21 cents a day, and a further 500 million get by on less than $2 a day; it’s going to be a long time before they can afford a Hummer. While these people may not be able to afford cars, however, they are already seeing their lives radically altered by their...
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