Diesel Shortage Caused Traffic Jam

Wendy and I was stuck in the middle of a traffic jam for about 10 minutes. It is due to the continued diesel shortage in Shanghai. Large trucks are partying on the road – long lines of trucks lined up from the other gas station (the one on the opposite side of station which just exploded yesterday) to the corner of the road and winding toward the road leading to my home direction. They occupied the right lane, so jammed the traffic for some time.

Is it a sign for future problems?

Above is the satellite map of the gas station (the gray box on the top), and the line went along the corner and extended to one road of the fork on the east side of the north-south road.

BTW, imagine what happens when this gas station explodes? Look at the high-raising residential buildings surrounding the station! They are at least 20 floors in height.

5 Comments

  1. My parents are just back from a vacation to Yunnan and they were stuck in the traffic for several hours due to the diesel shortage there. It looks like the problem is all over China now.

  2. Great photo, and great post. I spent years working in Shanghai and remember the traffic jams there, every day spending 3-4 hours to go short distances. Only Los Angeles has worse traffic, or maybe Moscow where I worked 2 years ago. Maybe with better buses and subway systems Shanghai will improve, but it’s painful to drive there today.

    Actually, I learned to adjust to the Shanghai traffic when I was working there, I just bought a tape to learn Chinese in the car and did language lessons while I was waiting in traffic. Years of doing that, and I learned a lot in the car.

    As far as what did frustrate me most about Shanghai? Sorry to rant like this, it’s just that, as an acknowledged Sinophile and (like almost all my business colleagues) a great admirer of China and the Chinese people, there’s one thing that frustrated me above all else, especially considering the way it thwarted so much of the potential and talent of the Chinese people and business in general in China– the darn central Internet Firewall in China that blocks access to various Websites and Email. It was so damaging for business that it ultimately forced us to move our company outside of China, and considering the number of other businesses also forced to do this, this is tens of trillions of dollars (Euros) in investment that China is losing to other Asian countries such as Japan, India and South Korea.

    Honestly, as much as I respect everything about China– yes, even respecting the Chinese government authorities, who I found overall to be quite admirable and dedicated to good public service– the big Firewall just makes it impossible to do good business efficiently. Nobody’s interested in any kind of political sites whatsoever, we just want to do business and access technical documents and economic sites, but the Firewall blocks out so many sites, so broadly and so nonsensically, it slowed our business down and made our networks unreliable.

    The lifeblood of any new business, *especially* in high-technology fields such as computers, pharmaceuticals and engineering, is rapid, instant and reliable access to information. Without this, we can’t process orders efficiently, can’t communicate rapidly amongst each other and most of all, can’t do effective Research and Development, and the firewall was blocking too many useful sites. Yes, occasionally we used things like proxies but these were unreliable– with the general internet often blocked by the Firewall (and also slowed down, the Firewall causes a “speed tax” on general Internet access), we couldn’t reliably obtain information that was essential. Even worse, we’d access a site one month and then have it blocked the next month! The great firewall, in Shanghai at least, was blocking the Google Cache– which blocked access to many technical documents whose sites had moved, for example, and also prevented us from checking earlier versions of documents which are useful for research.

    Blocking the Google Cache also resulted in blocking access to HTML versions of PDF documents, an extremely useful resource for browsing scientific papers quickly from search engines rather than wasting time with the PDF’s. Many Blogsites were also blocked– again, being blocked unpredictably at any given time– and this too wasted enormous time and money. Many researchers use the Blog sites to post up research as well as discuss their latest ideas while inviting outside comments, it’s the fastest way to talk about new ideas semi-publicly. But the Firewall was blocking so many Blogsites so broadly and randomly– much of Livejournal, MSN Live, Xanga, Bravehost, Yahoo– that access to critical information was blocked.

    Many news sites were blocked, which prevented access to timely financial news updates, among other things. Even the Wikipedia of all things was blocked, which is just ridiculous– for all its flaws, the Wikipedia is useful for quickly checking information and most of all, getting references to standard books and other references. It’s useful especially for technical references, and when Wikipedia was blocked by the firewall, a lot of useful information was blocked as well.

    Ultimately, the founders of our company– which is focused on commerce in the Asia-Pacific region– closed down the headquarters in China, which was supposed to be the central hub for Asia, and instead moved the firm to Japan. Despite the much higher costs of doing business in Japan, the reliable access to Internet information, blocked in China, was essential for the company and convinced our founders to have the headquarters around Tokyo. This is *despite* the fact that two of the company’s founders are Chinese-born scientists themselves.

    China has so much outstanding human capital, far more than any other country I’ve ever worked in– the Chinese people are not just incredibly intelligent and naturally creative, but very hard-working, friendly, motivated, enterprising, and brilliant at solving problems. China should by any measure, be the most extraordinary country in the world today, with not only the biggest economy but the most spectacular achievements. When I was working in China, it seemed to me– China should be winning half the world’s Nobel Prizes, should be founding innovative companies like Google and Yahoo every year, should be hosting the world’s biggest film industry and producing the world’s best films, bringing about the world’s best advancements in science and medicine, the best food, best music and popular culture, best fashion, best engineering, space exploration, research institutes and business meccas, and capital markets for new firms. All of these things require creativity, “outside-the-box thinking,” constructive criticism, thorough discussion of ideas and innovative problem-solving, which I know the Chinese people have in abundance. In short, China should be by far the world’s most inspiring country and world leader, a beacon of accomplishment for the rest of the world. Already, back in my home university, the best students especially in business and science fields are taking courses in Mandarin Chinese language studies in anticipation of China really doing great things and being the best in the world in many fields.

    And yet– I just feel like, things like the Internet firewall in China, they suppress and frustrate the great talent and potential of the Chinese people. Things like the Firewall also probably explain, at least in part, the severe brain drain of very talented professionals and scientists that China continues to suffer, the worst in the world according to Chinese government sources themselves– I sense that most of these overseas Chinese want to return to work in China and contribute to the Chinese economy, but they’re frustrated and feel that their potential is hindered by things like the firewall which block their ability to rapidly access information to, for example, innovate new scientific principles or devise new technologies. So they remain overseas, and China loses their economic and intellectual contributions to other countries.

    It just seems sometimes, that at least some of the authorities have a lack of self-confidence in the Chinese people which I don’t understand, since merely unleashing their creative and entrepreneurial abilities would rapidly turn China into a scientific, engineering and cultural powerhouse. I actually admire much of China’s emphasis on social harmony, it’s certainly better than the cynicism and self-loathing that passes for news in the United States these days. (For that matter, even as an American, I frankly have many criticisms of our own government, which is essentially bought off by big corporations– as far as representative governments go, IMHO Continental European countries are a lot better.) But when this emphasis on harmony crosses over into suppressing even useful information such as that obtained on the Google Cache– without transparency or an ability to register a complaint– it just does China a lot of harm. I adored almost everything about Shanghai when I was there. My only other complaints were the air pollution (which indeed did bother many of us there, and does need improvement to attract and retain good people) and the problems with patent and intellectual property protection– otherwise, it’s one of the best cities in the world. But the firewall makes it too difficult to do business.

    Again, sorry to vent on this topic, it just seems so frustrating that so much potential in China is being bottled up and blocked from being effective by the firewall. To the extent that people post dumb and dangerous things on the Internet, social pressure is much more effective than outright blocks at combating it– the Firewall blocks in place, are just so general that they discourage businesses from setting up and contributing to the Chinese economy. As much as I love China and the Chinese people, all of us in my business have to make cold, calculated business decisions first and foremost, and the Chinese Internet firewall was just too damaging for our business, forcing us to move elsewhere.

    What worries me, is that this could potentially enable other countries to gain a technological advantage on China that, long-term, could be very damaging to the Chinese people. China of all countries should know how dangerous this can be– after all, when China burned down its oceanic exploring ships in the 1400’s and 1500’s and turned inward, closing itself off from outside technology and ideas from the West and elsewhere, other countries advanced at China’s expense, leading to the humiliations and disasters of the 19th century. As someone with a great respect for the Chinese people (not to mention my fiance from Shanghai), I fear this could happen again if the creative potential of the Chinese people continues to be stifled like this. Just my thoughts on this, and my experience as a grizzled business veteran.

  3. Shanghai, as a Chinese metropolis, attracted so much people and multinationals there within such a short time. It inevitablely has a lot to improve. In order to make people live comfortably and harmoniously, a great deal measures should be taken by the authority.

  4. George, I am quite impressed by your post. I hope someday, the authority will be aware of the importance of improving our firewall system. As you may know, Shanghai, as a great metropolis in China, still have a long way to go to make everyone there feeling comfortable and living hormoniously.

  5. “the authority will be aware of the importance of improving our firewall system.”

    Improve? Why not take it away completely? Much better solution ;-)

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