Below is a fun little Chinese New Year guest post by Sir Topaz, aka One Bad Adder (although he seems to be pretty good at math to me). Just a little "food for thought" as he says...
9 月 8 evening Yan’an Road, Shanxi Road intersection, north-south and east-west traffic to each other and lack of traffic police to ease, crossing continued congestion. Post intern reporter Wang Ju Liang Yang deep to figure
The Shanghai Transportation System – an analogy
In China there generally exists a feeling of the presence of “authority”. In almost all cases this is reassuring for the visitor …not so however on the streets of the cities.
There, chaos seems to rule …and it would be a brave, nay foolish “westerner” who would even contemplate getting behind the wheel without spending a lot of time to first study and absorb the “local” way.
After the initial shock, the traffic chaos begins to take on a semblance of order as one realises there are very few accidents evident and largely the only obstruction to the (albeit slow) traffic flow, is the occasional breakdown.
Seemingly, the “secret” to navigating your way in Shanghai traffic is to quickly develop an understanding of (a) the user, (b) the signalling …and lastly (c) the law.
The Chinese motorist, bike-rider and pedestrian all appear to have what I regard as a highly developed “respect” for one-another. This, above all else is the key to maintaining a smooth flow of traffic and getting to where you need to be.
Wherever they’re installed, the ubiquitous Traffic Lights are essentially used to complement this level of individual respect where: - GREEN means GO (cautiously) …and RED means STOP …and GO (slightly more cautiously)
There are few (if ANY) Walk – Don’t Walks …and I’m yet to figure out what AMBER means ;-)
The ever-present “authority”, when applied to traffic management, appears to be treated with a certain level of disrespect …not necessarily contempt, apparently something more akin to “I’m alright Jack! – we’ll manage it amongst ourselves”.
“Management” approach to the Shanghai Traffic System du-jour and I might add to life in general in China …to all intents, appears to be a case of “let-it-be”.
My apprehension in Chinese traffic is also compounded by the fact that I’m used to driving on the Right-(correct ;-) hand side of a vehicle!
It is worth also mentioning here that trying to grasp the exponential increase of motor vehicle uptake in Shanghai …and China in general, now and into the future, completely boggles this layman’s mind.
So …on arrival at Shanghai airport you get a Cab and experience all this with trepidation from the passenger seat as you meander into town 1 or 2 hours away (on a good day)
Shanghai taxi driver ID includes a registration number 111,892 where the lower the number the more earlier the driver was registered. One colleagues opined that he would get out of taxi where the registration was recent – currently around 3xx,xxx, simply because the driver would need help understanding directions. The higher number of stars denote better quality of service, and to some extent whether or not the driver is likely to understand some English.
At the other end of the Shanghai Transportation spectrum …albeit separate to it, is the Mag-Lev Train.
Going from the outskirts of the City to the Airport, this state-of-the-art service delivers you in comfort and on-time at speeds never before attained for mass-transit travel “on” Earth.
A truly unique experience - as you hurtle at 431kph to or from the Airport. The thing actually backs off to 380k’s to pass the one coming the other way …wwwoosh …they pass each other in 0.7secs …exhilarating stuff!
It was so enthralling at the time we experienced it, we ended up having several “goes”.
What a contrast …City – Airport …2 odd hours in traffic …or several minutes via Mag-Lev.
They built it …and the people came – well not quite in numbers to guarantee the sustainability of the thing economically, but come they did.
It goes nowhere, it’s too costly to build, tickets are too expensive, were common complaints but, believe you me, it serves its purpose admirably. Accordingly, they plan to extend this service to the city-centre …and I understand they’re installing a similar longer one from Shanghai to a neighbouring City as I type. (Probably be finished and have it operational by the time I get this posted ;-)
We can look at the STS as described above as an analogy for what might end up developing as a Global Financial System courtesy of our Oriental cousins-in-trade.
In Shanghai / China, if they were to adopt and enforce similar draconian rules and regulations that govern western traffic flow, the System would grind to a halt in a heartbeat, so to maintain the integrity of our analogy, we can assume China en-masse follows “let-it-be” principles in all facets of their activities …and essentially I believe they DO.
In this Laissez-faire Society / System, “respect” both for the individual …and transactions between parties, is sacrosanct.
Management essentially is kept to a minimum …a-la the STS.
We can also consider the Mag-Lev as representative of a functioning Free-gold option - included in the System but not necessarily part of it - where participants can opt out of the System if they so desire …be none the worst for it …and in fact gain by the experience.
Free-Gold then acts as an arbiter of the System whereby IF participants begin to stray too far from courteous interaction and behaviour, those potentially disenfranchised simply move to Gold.
Of course the Cab drivers are represented in this analogy by the various Financial Advisers, Accountants etc. who would not necessarily benefit financially by pointing you to the Mag-Lev …and ultimately perhaps would do so quite reluctantly.
Opting out (of the traffic) and onto the Mag-Lev does also have its limitations and suitable only for the few – as per Free-Gold ….but there is (and will be) absolutely NO RISK in doing so as the Human condition ultimately guarantees an upward new-currency evaluation of REAL Gold.
Can a similar “Laissez-faire” Financial System exist WITHOUT an escape option a-la Free-Gold? I really don’t think so.
(Pictures and music added by FOFOA)