In China, It’s Not Always Clear for Whom the Booth Tolls – Jim Yardley

From the New York Times:

16China.1902 In Chongqing, a sprawling municipality in central China, so many owners of private cars and trucks are using fraudulent toll-exempt military plates that one toll highway has estimated its annual losses at roughly 10 million yuan, or $1.2 million.

In March a driver outfitted his vehicle like an ambulance, with flashing lights and an emergency response phone number painted on the side. He then raced through a highway tollbooth as if rushing to a hospital, until the police arrested him.

For centuries, commoner and collector have waged a volatile contest in China that has occasionally toppled dynasties but never quite been resolved. Leaders of the current dynasty, the Communist Party, are worried enough about angry peasants that they lifted the centuries-old agriculture tax as a populist gesture.

Tolls are another matter. By 2020, if all goes as planned, China will have completed almost 53,000 miles of expressways, a network roughly equivalent to the Interstate System in the United States. China considers expressways crucial to maintaining its economic growth and developing its western and interior provinces.

But the cost is so exorbitant that China is financing much of the system with tolls that are, by Chinese standards, pricey. [Full text]


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