China to Have 200+ Million Cars by 2020!

china traffic jam cars photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
Serious Environmental Issues Foreseen
Wang Fuchang, the Chinese director of the Department of Equipment Industry under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, made a speech last week about the importance for China to rapidly move to more sustainable forms of transportation. He said that "it is estimated that automobile ownership in China will exceed 200 million in 2020, causing serious energy security and environmental issues."This is a massive increase rate considering that not long ago that number was close to 20 million.

While the Chinese government doesn't seem to be giving itself very concrete goals, it is at least looking in the right direction. Wang Fuchang, in his speech, said that China should develop energy efficient and alternative energy vehicle and fuel economy should reach "high international standards", and that "the sales of pure-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles should increase by a large margin".

Don't Go Car-Centric
That's not a bad start, but if China really wants to dodge a bullet and make things happen before it has 200 million gas powered cars on its roads, it should have a more integrated plan that will both create incentives for greener cars and for alternatives to cars. China can't afford to make the same mistakes that too many other countries made, which is to build big cities and sprawling suburbs that rely primarily on the automobile. Cars are great for certain things, but citizens need a wide range of fast and affordable choices to get around. Walkable cities, lots of safe bike lanes, good public transportation, access to car-sharing, etc. All these things should work together.

I don't think the Chinese government should or can plan all that. But it can certainly create a framework that will align the incentives properly. A good start would be not to subsidize gasoline and to make sure that urban planning laws and regulations take into account all forms of transportation, not just cars...

China has the benefit of not having too much legacy infrastructure in many places. It should learn from the best cities around the world (f.ex. Copenhagen).

Via People's Daily, ABG
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