And Finally

The great divide

Newspaper delights in China’s bridge-building record


It’s very high: Beipanjiang Bridge

Ask someone to name a famous bridge and they might choose San Francisco’s Golden Gate, London’s Tower Bridge or Prague’s Charles Bridge (to name but a few of the many candidates).

Ask them to identify the world’s highest bridge and you’d probably expect fewer takers.

The answer, predictably enough, is a Chinese one. Bragging rights go to the Beipanjiang Bridge between the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou. Opened on December 30 last year, it stretches 1,341 metres over a gorge that drops 564 metres beneath.

Announcing the new bridge, National Business Daily, was surprised to learn that some people outside China had heard of the engineering wonder. Under the headline “China spends Rmb1 billion to build this bridge, making UK and US netizens boil over!” NBD noted how the story of its construction garnered attention when it was posted on that “ancestor of web portals”, Yahoo.

According to the newspaper, the most popular of the comments contrasted the way of building bridges in China with the health and safety codes that obsess the West. The US blogger focused on the bridge’s low construction cost, noting: “It cost so little because the government didn’t get in the way”.

NBD cherrypicked similar comments: “$120 million for a bridge?? In the US it would be 10 times that amount,” wrote one. “And it would be behind schedule,” added another.

The Beipanjiang Bridge actually cost Rmb1.3 billion ($190 million) but it was ready in an impressive timeframe: three years. British netizens seemed especially impressed by this. “Would have taken 30 years to build in UK,” was one comment. “And another 30 years to make a decision,” agreed another (referencing Heathrow’s still unbuilt third runway, WiC suspects).

Another foreign netizen (identified pithily as “Hezbollah: Saviour Of Innocent, Slayer Of Evil”) said that America was now more interested in having debates about transgender bathrooms than delivering on major infrastructure contracts.

NBD also quoted a bridge expert called “Eve from Telford”: the Englishwoman pointed out “I thought the Millau Bridge in France was the highest in the world before I heard about this one.” (She sounds like the sort of person who is a regular at pub quizzes.)

“In fact, in the list of the world’s 10 highest bridges, apart from number seven…and number eight… all of the bridges are from China!” NBD responded helpfully.

But Eve wasn’t far off the mark, though. The Millau Viaduct in France, as most English-language news sources chose to mention, is the tallest bridge in the world in terms of its actual structure, rising by 343 metres. Its height from the ground is relatively low, however, giving honours to Beipanjiang.

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