Chinese Traffic Apocalypse


Drivers outside Beijing are in the ninth day of a traffic jam that now extends more than 60 miles. The chief cause of the congestion appears to be construction on a parallel road, which has diverted a lot of truck traffic onto the expressway; heavy trucks are reportedly doing a lot of damage to the highway, which I suppose will lead to more construction and more congestion in the future. (Sounds like a good argument for weight-sensitive road pricing.) The situation is not unprecedented: The same highway saw another jam earlier this summer that lasted over 15 days.

Bonus video, not from China, though it was directed by a Maoist:

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  1. I posted this on another thread Jesse. Someone call Tom Friedman.

  2. Hey, wait. Isn’t traffic supposed to be self regulating?

  3. That’s probably Godard’s most famous scene, and yet it has an un-Godardian Achilles heel. The camera follows the main characters (the people in the convertible) throughout the shot. And all they have to do is pull off to the side to continue driving at about the same pace the camera is tracking. So they’re actually not stuck in traffic at all, and the whole horror of a traffic jam — that there’s nowhwere you can go — is lost.

    Of course, we track the main characters because that’s what a regular movie does — tracks the main characters. Ironically, the master of jump cuts and on-the-fly filmmaking screwed up his most famous scene by making it too close to film-of-good-quality standards.

    1. Tim, he was showing that the main (bourgeois) characters were callous assholes – they refused to play by the rules that everyone else did, since they were driving on the left side of the road, while everyone else waited on the right.

      Also, while he stayed with them for the most part, he never had a closeup of them, keeping a Brechtian distance from them.

      1. Excellent work, BP.

        This is why I try never to argue with Godardians. They can always go one level of bullshit deeper.

      2. Asshole not a good place for calluses.

  4. I don’t see the problem. China is experiencing the American Dream of living in their cars. Progress!

  5. though the director did go on to become a Maoist

    He wasn’t already? I don’t know his bio, but the laborer-at-lunch scene in Weekend is totally Mao-y (as a French art fag would understand Mao-y-ness).

    It’s a great movie.

    1. He was some sort of Marxist at this point, but I’m not sure he identified with Maoism until after May ’68. I could be wrong, though.

      1. Jesse & ? – La Chinoise was made in 1967, so he was definitely a Maoist by Weekend.

        BTW, La Chinoise is much less interesting than Weekend. Even Tout Va B!en, for all its screediness, was a better film than Chinoise.

        1. OK, I’ll change the sentence. I haven’t seen La Chinoise, by the way — is it as bad as his Rolling Stones movie?

          1. I’ve never seen Sympathy for the Devil, so I can’t comment on it.

            La Chinoise is basically five college students sitting around a room talking about Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. I was able to watch the entire movie, but it doesn’t have much humor, no real plot (not entirely surprising with a Godard film). I think the only reason it’s remembered was its prophetic quality re: French students rebelling.

          2. I just got the mail, and Contempt was in one of my Netflix envelopes. Bardot FTW.

    2. Never mind that, what a great collection of cars that’d be today.

  6. Why haven’t people just turned around and gone home? Are the Chinese that stupid?

    1. No-one has been able to frame the jam in mathematical terms yet.

  7. Confucius say:

    It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. So keep your foot on that long pedal on the right, buddy.

  8. Nonetheless, many prefer to sit and wait rather than take detours. CBC reported one driver telling a state-run newspaper: “We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs.”

    They must be getting paid hardly anything for choosing week-long delays to be economical.

  9. Consttruction in China is a giant state-sponsored Ponzi scheme, and when the bubble pops it’s going to get real ugly over there.

  10. Wow, and I thought Fort Lauderdale was bad! LOL


    1. I saw Anon-Bot posting at a Balko-linked thread here.

      It was like seeing your elementary school teacher at the grocery.

      1. Milhouse: Look! It’s principal Skinner! And he must have gone crazy, he’s not wearing a tie or anything!

        1. But he does have calluses in his rectum.

  11. The Beijing-Tibet highway is main channel for the transportation of coal in Inner Mongolia and Shanxi to industrial areas in China.

    What the fuck do they use their railroads for then?

  12. Most of the articles I’ve seen on this situation are somewhat misleading. True, the traffic jam has been on for 9 days, but that doesn’t mean the same cars have been stuck there for 9 days. Most likely, they clear the bottleneck in a few hours, but the constant influx of new cars has been keeping the traffic very heavy in that area for 9 days.

    1. If they’re playing cards and paying roadside vendors, they’re at least stalled or barely moving for several hours.

      1. They refuse to take the detour to save money.

    2. Jozef: You’re right that no one has been stuck there for nine days, but I’ve read that some cars have been stuck in the traffic jam for as much as three days.

      1. How can you tell? They all look alike.

  13. most coal truck drivers preferred to stay on the highway to avoid fines imposed by the Coal Inspection Stations on other roads….
    Drivers, mostly owners of the large trucks, have been playing cards to pass the time, while others complain about roadside vendors and their inflated prices.

    They’re math-challenged, that’s probably why they’re truck drivers.

    1. They know enough about math to make this statement.

      “We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs.”

      So when it comes to money and math, they are better than most of our elected officials.

  14. Meh. Big Cypress, Florida dealt with a similar traffic jam in late 1999 without much fuss.

    1. It’s only news in China because it’s new to them.

  15. Perhaps here’s a key element to the problem.

    “Nonetheless, many prefer to sit and wait rather than take detours. CBC reported one driver telling a state-run newspaper: “We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs.”

  16. more cowbell.

  17. If the news goes silent on this, I direct readers to the short story “The Great Moveway Jam” by John Keefauver, originally published in Omni Magazine some years back. I remember it today as if I had just read it, and it’s just as disturbing when I remember it.

    1. The Great Moveway Jam was scanned and pdf’d here:

  18. Swell. Plenty of time for fire drills, amirite?

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