So how did China use so much cement? First, the country is urbanizing at a historic rate, much faster than the U.S. did in the 20th Century. More than 20 million Chinese relocate to cities each year, which is more people than live in downtown New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. This massive change has taken place in less than 50 years. In 1978, less than a fifth of China’s population lived in cities. By 2020, that proportion will be 60 percent....The scale of everything in China is just mind-boggling to me. I'm pretty sure China's steel industry is as large as the rest of the world's combined. The overproduction in every industry there is astounding.
More stunning than Shanghai's transformation is the growth of the Pearl River Delta, a megalopolis on the Chinese mainland across from Hong Kong. The manufacturing hub had 42 million inhabitants in 2010, according to the World Bank. If considered a single urban area – which makes sense, since the cities there all run together -- the Pearl River Delta would be the world’s largest city by both area and population.
What’s almost more impressive than China’s biggest cities is the incredible number of “small” cities that no one has ever heard of. In 2009, China had 221 cities with more than a million people in them, compared with only 35 in Europe. Even relatively minor cities like Zhengzhou and Jinan are more populous than Los Angeles or Chicago.
Beyond China's incredible urbanization, there are a few more facts that make the cement stat even more believable. As Goldman Sachs pointed out in a note, China’s population today is only about four times as large as the U.S., but it is 15 times as large as the U.S. was in the early 20th Century, and nine times the size of the U.S. in 1950.
The world also experienced a shift in building materials over the 20th Century. In 1950, the world manufactured roughly as much steel as cement; by 2010, steel production had grown by a factor of eight, but cement had gone up by a factor of 25. And where many houses in the U.S. are made of wood, China suffers from a relative lack of lumber. Unlike in the U.S., many people in China live in high- or low-rise buildings made out of cement.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
China Used More Cement in 3 Years than the U.S. did in 100
There is a lot of crazy data here: