Huangpu river tunnels

It’s not easy to explain to people outside China how quickly Chinese can do things. In Shanghai I have seen roads being built in a few days and buildings going up in a matter of months instead of years. Many people don’t believe it until they visit Shanghai and feel the vibe of this city and the work ethos of the people. Here things happen instead of that people just talk about them.

Today’s paper version of the Shanghai Daily had a great example of this. It published an article about a new tunnel that is currently being constructed under the Huangpu river, and they reported that the tunneling machines broke through to the other side this weekend. The Renmin Road tunnel will have two passages of each 2470 meters long and will be finished in the 4th quarter of this year. I have to admit that I don’t know a single thing about construction, let alone about tunnel construction, but building a 2.5 km tunnel (or actually 2 tunnels) within 9 months after drilling to the other side of the river seems awfully fast to me.

But that’s not all, because the article matter-of-factly ends with the sentence: “Currently 7 tunnels are under construction and they are all due to open before the World Expo 2010”. Seven new tunnels – and all to be finished in just over a year. That could only happen in China!

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  1. And than in Amsterdam it takes years to dig two tunnels for a new metro line. And because of that a lot of frustration arises, people start complaining (after all, their Dutch!)
    which results in a new political fight about proceeding or canceling the whole project… And we can add another year or two to project.

    That can only happen in the Netherlands?

  2. Another impressive piece of architecture being quietly built is the Minpu Bridge, a double-decker bridge carrying expressway and local traffic. I hear there is another double-decker bridge in planning or under construction that will carry both road traffic and a subway line!

    Another quiet transportation news is that the Garden Bridge/Waibaiduqiao is being put back into place, so the Bund will be connected to Yangpu at the mouth of the Suzhou Creek once again.

  3. @Jeroen You’re absolutely right. One big advantage in China is that the government can make a decision and start implementing it right away without having to wait for all kinds of permits that are needed in Amsterdam to start building. In Holland everybody wants (and can) first have a say about the project. People have too many rights nowadays, it’s gone over the top and now works contra-productive. Not just in Holland by the way, but it’s a good example.

    @Micah Thanks for the links with all the pictures. Didn’t know about the Minpu bridge, it’s quite a structure they are building!

  4. OK … bitching the Netherlands. Sometime needs to. Just like any country in this world.

    I do have a question though … What IF the Amsterdam authority says: “to facilitate the construction of the two Metro tunnels, we ARE TEARING down all the old buildings in the center of Amsterdam.”??? Would any of you agree to that? Removing ALL the old buildings would mean not having to worry about collapsed buildings, damages to buildings, most of all the problems dealing with under-sea-level constructions. The 3 Gorges of Holland.

    I don’t know much about constructions either. And I have seen many tall buildings seemingly appeared overnight in Singapore way back in the 1960s, 70s. So what is happening in China now is nothing new. And I have also seen disgusting quarters for constructions workers both in Singapore then, and now of course in China. Why not take that also into account? Would you accept such living conditions IF you were one of the Chinese workers?? Or perhaps human rights is no longer of any importance in our life?

    The grass is always greener in other places. Should we compare oranges and apples?

    Perhaps we should think about the constructions of the 3 Gorges. We have not seen the REAL problems YET. But I am sure it will come one of these days. Perhaps not in my life time. Would anyone of us want to see such things happen in Good Old Holland? Does anyone of you proud of the constructions such as the Delta works, Afsluit Dijk …

    There is always a price to pay for everything. Not all things is good in China, neither is all things bad in The Netherlands.


  5. @Jeroen & @Marc You are absolutely right, law and regulations is one huge disadvantage! However, is this the reason why the metro is finished in 2017…? of course it's a complex project, but I think it's outrages! besides regulations, many other factors are important where the Dutch can learn something from the Chinese to adapt to the current market conditions; work mentality & a 24/7 economy.

    Here (Eindhoven) Shops still close @ 6PM and close @ Sunday

  6. India is leader in software development and call centers, probably because they have a horrible infrastructure. Centralized planned organization of growth is, indeed, only in China. Although I have seen building being raised in months in Korea as well.

  7. I have to agree with Cindy here. Marc you’re focusing a lot on the positive, but there are CLEAR negatives. And let me tell you it’s not “work ethos” that gets those projects done quickly over here, and you know that.

    And as for the buildings… well, considering the rate of occupancy… perhaps we should think about whether we REALLY need them in the first place. (like that ridiculous “Shanghai Tower” project, which is completely disconnected from the reality of the market).

  8. @Cindy & @Yannick Certainly there are some negative sides to how quickly China implements its construction projects. It can never be 100% black or white, but for me China is on the fast track in the right direction.

    Why should I take construction workers quarters into account (@cindy)? It's a bit of a strange question to ask if I would accept such living conditions. I come from a different background, but if I would come from the Chinese countryside I might be happy with it. Have you ever visited these sites? I lived next to one for a year and the men looked very happy there. I've seen villages on the Chinese countryside, where many of these migrant workers come from. Their current accommodation is better than what you see there. It's a pity you're so negative about China, I believe the government has the best in mind for its people and is doing an excellent job. And sure, they make mistakes. But at least they do something!

    @yannick It is not work ethos that gets projects done quickly? Well, I have not seen any Dutch construction workers willing to work 7 days a week for 12 hours a week. To me that's work ethos. These guys are not slaves, they are happy to have a job and often happy to be able to work overtime to earn extra money.

    Whether the buildings are needed? No idea what the occupancy rates are, but looking at rental rates I think they're still quite decent. And Shanghai will still see growth in 2009, you cannot say that of many place on this planet. But I think the construction of buildings is slowing down, therefore the topic was tunnels and how quickly they are built.

  9. Hi Marc.

    To be honest, this is the first time that I had to read your blogpost and your comments here twice to make sure where the bad taste in my mouth is coming from.

    We have something to discuss at dinner tonight (looking foward to it).

    You are so on the wrong track in your comparisons of your favourite country with for example NL. A completely useless comparison and discussion for that matter.

    My advice would be to stay away from yes/no and who’s better discussions, because it’s simply not possible.

    My guess would be that any VOC director in the Golden Age would have thought that the Dutch Delta was heaven on earth. Simply because of the economic miracles they made happening. Would it made sense if they would have started a bash on the old Greek cultures?

    Perhaps the issue at hand is what path to choose for economic growth? Also one could ask what rate and kind of economic growth is preferred? And of course history learns us that many different answers are right! It’s very personal if one thinks it’s cool when seven new tunnels can be finished in one year (because the government decides it’s going to be like this … period) or if one thinks it’s cool if the public can stop government in building city tunnel for which old historical buildings must be torn down or homes start cracking or simply because it’s too expensive.

    Anyway … as said … an endless discussion …

  10. @bas Indeed an endless discussion. I find it astonishing how quickly China is taking over a leading position in the world, with most people outside China still not noticing what’s happening there (or with media trying to hide it for their audience by only focusing on human rights etc.). I am happy to use this blog as a platform to try show my audience what’s going on. I don’t mind comparing it to Holland where time seems to stand still. That also has its advantages just as China has its negative sides. It may be a long discussion, but I don’t see why you cannot compare them.

    At least we’ll have something to discuss over dinner tonight 🙂