Saturday, October 17, 2009

Car trouble

AP reports that, following a 55% surge in growth in the first nine months of the year helped by tax cuts and subsidies for small, fuel-efficient cars, General Motors expects its sales in China this year to exceed 1.6 million vehicles. As a result China is now the world's leading auto market: 9.66 million vehicles were sold in the first nine months of 2009, up 34% year-on-year, and sales are forecast to rise to 12.6 million units this year, up 35% from 2008.

This amounts to a mind-boggling number of new cars on the roads in China this year alone. The major cities are already grid-locked and horribly polluted; rural roads are falling apart. Where are all the new cars going to go?

Rather than see this as an encouraging sign of China's economic resurgence, I find the news thoroughly depressing. This, surely, is a situation where questions need to be asked about sustainability instead of the tacit approval of the mainland's headlong rush towards becoming a car culture.

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