USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Anthony and the World

A construction crew in the south-central Chinese city of Changsha has completed a 15-story hotel in just six days.

Wait, did I just read, six days???

Amazing. Pretty much Extreme Makeover on speed.

Okay, so the more you read the article and research the project you find out that the foundation was already built (a three to four-month process) and most of the project was prefab and built off-site but they still have a level 9 Earthquake-resistant, sound-proofed, thermal-insulated building with some spiffy three-pane windows done in four months. Would you ever see that done in the US? I think not.

The most intriguing part about this article is not just the speed in construction but the comments on the feat itself. There are comments along the lines of: slave labor, this building is a laugh to any professional buildings, they are using cheap and toxic materials, built so poorly it is going to crumble in 20 years, it is stunt, etc. And then you have the comments like; China is going to kick our…, this is just another example at how fast they compete, look at their infrastructure, America needs to step up our game. Opinions getting so heated to the point there are arguments within arguments. Americans are being told we are jealous and we are telling China they have a corrupt system.

These comments began to remind me of the article, Too Many Hamburgers? by Thomas Friedman which we read earlier on this trip. America being summed up in one skit:

“The American child, “Anthony,” boasts that he will win “because I always win,” and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. “Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!” shouts the Chinese child. “What’s wrong with Anthony?” asks another. “He is overweight and flabby,” says another child. “He ate too many hamburgers.”

Embarrassing but true, America has become complacent. We assume we will always be number one because who can possibly catch up with us? Well China with its four months building span seems to be really close. Heck, Shanghai had 0km of railway infrastructure in 1990 by 2004 they had 125km of railway track. Even more, 96 municipal trains in 1997 became 829 in 2006.

Friedman hits on an interesting point, saying, “I am not praising China because I want to emulate their system. I am praising it because I am worried about my system.” It is a very fine line to tread upon. Cheap labor is a factor that helps the speed on construction in China but the Unions that are supposed to benefit the people in the United States are slowing down the advancement of our society. It has become about petty politics and the best way to capitalize on the American mentality that we always deserve better.

We expect to be given what we what when we need it without putting the work and effort. It does not help that our politicians don’t care about serving the people anymore; who has majority in the house is their largest concern. That is the most frustrating part. As much as I want the United States to remain world power we need to step down and re-evaluate our own system. Not saying that we should adopt China’s government but we need to focus inward and figure out how our system can adapt and change for the betterment of us.

So maybe Anthony should step out of the racing world for a couple of years, slim down a bit, refocus, and hop back in. Then maybe we might have a chance.

– Precious

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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