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What if a massive country like China becomes closely interconnected visibly and invisibly like a city?
Nobody knows the answer, as the scenario has never materialized in this world yet. But the realization of the goal is on the doorstep.
With the rapid completion of hyper networks of high-speed railways, expressways, the Internet, power grids, and many other aspects of society, China is on its way to becoming an ultra-large superpower like the world has never seen.
Everything about human history, development and the future will be redefined.
To fully comprehend the implications of such a high level of interconnection, let’s first have a brief review of the so-called modern history of the world and look at the world in the early 21st century.
The world’s modern history, by the Western definition, is largely represented by the rise and development of Western civilization, which, in turn, is chiefly represented by the rise and development of a few superpowers like the U.K. and the U.S.A.
These powers have profoundly reshaped the world, bringing affluence and convenience to some parts of the world.
What they have done can be summarized in a phrase: interconnection. By building roads, railways, flight and ship routes, telephone lines, and power lines, manufacturers and distributors brought goods and service as far as the interconnection goes, immediately bringing the benefited area into the “modern world.”
For over a century, we, the beneficiaries of modernization, have been marveling at the dazzling changes sweeping through the world, and as a result, we have taken it for granted that the entire world is like what we know.
We didn’t know that we had enjoyed a rather-low-level interconnection and that much of the world is still extremely backward because of the absence of interconnection until the emergence of China’s super webs of interconnection.
Modern traffic means have been around in China since I was born, but two factors made traveling around a time-consuming and arduous job, even over a short distances: low speeds of transports and the inaccessibility of many parts of the country. Visiting a relative in another city in the same province would take days. A trip to a remote province could be a once in a life chance. Many out-of-the-way places were nothing short of another planet.
Without the Internet and high efficient logistics, information and commodities traveled between people by hours, days, and even months. So, compared to today’s standards, “modern life” 20 years ago was indeed primitive.
The rest of the world, including the countries and areas originally under the rule of Western powers, was little better than China then. Though many countries were colonized or ruled by advanced powers, they are mostly still poverty-stricken, because their “conquerors” never managed to help them build a sound infrastructure.
Even in the most developed nations like the U.S., the U.K. and France, the infrastructure is rather outdated by today’s standards.
China is setting a new benchmark for interconnection. But it is unlikely that any other country can achieve a level as high as China. China will build the world’s greatest infrastructure thanks to many factors, including its institutional advantages like its political system, highly efficient decision-making mechanisms, and its vast and unified market, its massive size and huge population, plus its unrivaled manufacturing and construction capabilities.
As of today, China has built over 22,000 kilometers of high-speed railway. By 2025, every major city in China will be connected by a total of 45,000 kilometers of high-speed railway.
The total length of China’s expressway network will expand from the today’s 123,000 kilometers to 170,000 kilometers by 2020, thus linking almost every city of the country.
Complete with minor road networks, basically, every corner of the vast country will be tightly interconnected, making the movement of people and goods faster and smoother.
With the adoption of 5G technology approaching, China’s Internet connectivity will be greatly improved, thus making information transmission faster and better in quality.
As the world’s largest country in terms of mobile payment, bike and car sharing, and online shopping, China is gearing up to connect everything and every individual, hence bringing human advancement to an unprecedented dimension.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)