Chinese Innovation Solves Traffic Woes?

Much has been made about the giant, elevated buses that a Chinese company is planning to build and commercialize. Essentially, it's a behemoth electric/solar-powered vehicle that can carry more than 1,000 passengers while allowing passenger cars to pass underneath it unimpeded. 


The idea behind it seems to make sense, and it is apparently being piloted first in Beijing. Anyone who has sat on Beijing's infamous ring roads in a traffic jam for mind-numbing hours (me) will likely cheer any new mode of transportation or innovation that could potentially ameliorate the situation. Whether the mammoth buses will be widely adopted is anyone's guess at this point, but the larger point is that sustainable urbanization technologies and innovation will be a major area of growth in China. The Chinese government is banking much of future growth on urbanization. (Compared to similar developing countries, China has a lower rate of urbanization.) And so Beijing expects potentially another 300 million Chinese moving into the cities over the next three decades or so. To put it in context, that's adding another entire United States to China's cities. 

In fact, the Shenzhen-based company behind the concept of the bus is focused on urban transport issues. It has invented novel ways that reinvent street-side parking (in Chinese, but see photos and a video at bottom of page) for personal vehicles and bikes storage--which apparently allow efficient use of limited urban space, a particular constraint for the China of tomorrow. It's also important that this young company, started only in 2010, is a private entity that is relying on outsized creativity and innovation to survive--it claims that it has over 100 items based on internally generated intellectual property (The state's role in Chinese innovation will be a topic for another time). 

Whether this company and others like it prosper in China is at the heart of determining what kind of economy, and indeed country, it will become. 
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Damien Ma is a fellow at the Paulson Institute, where he focuses on investment and policy programs, and on the Institute's research and think-tank activities. Previously, he was a lead China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and advisory firm.

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