Capitalist Roaders – Ted Conover

A long feature about an emerging class of self-driving trip drivers in China, from the New York Times Magazine (take your time):

In other ways, though, the Chinese are still figuring cars out and doing things their way. Take the phrase used to describe our expedition: “self-driving trip.” It is called self-driving to contrast it with the more customary idea of driving in China: that someone else drives you. Until recently, everyone important enough to own a car was also important enough to have his or her own driver. Traditions grew up around this, like the chauffeur joining his boss at the table for meals while on duty — something still commonly seen….

The government recently announced a target of 53,000 freeway miles by 2035. (The U.S. Interstate Highway System, 50 years old last week, presently comprises about 46,000 miles of roads.) Some new roads, especially in the less-developed western parts of the nation, are nearly empty: China is encouraging road construction ahead of industrial development and population settlement, assuming those will follow….

An ebullient atmosphere surrounds the automobile in China. You can see the excitement continuing, even growing, as more people buy cars: China now has fewer than seven of them for every thousand people, roughly the same level as the United States had in 1915. Everyone expects the ownership rate to keep growing, which means there could be 130 million vehicles on China’s roads by 2020. By 2030, according to one estimate, there could be as many as in the United States. [Full Text]


Holiday Inn Sees Replay of the 50’s in China (from the New York Times):

Much has been said about the growing number of Chinese tourists traveling outside the country, but there’s a huge increase in travel to and within China as well. And where will all these tourists stay?

They might be bunking in a Holiday Inn if Andrew Cosslett, chief executive of the InterContinental Hotels Group, has his way. The former Cadbury Schwepps executive once sold candy in the Asia Pacific region, but now he’s got aggressive expansion plans for the familiar name in China, as well as for InterContinental’s higher-end hotels like the Crowne Plaza. [Full Text]

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