A Shift Eastward

I read this morning that the New York metropolitan area, according to 2007 statistics, contains approximately 19 million people. This is far short of the 35.7 million people Tokyo now is estimated to encompass, but is significant nonetheless because it represents a growing population in the New York area. Yet, numbers can be deceiving. Sure, New York is full of people. I live here and commute each day and deal with the delays and hassles of mass transportation and large numbers of people. But the reality is that the United States only has eight or nine cities whose city limits include more than one million people, with, of course, New York being the largest.

Compare this to China, where there are over 100 cities with populations of 1 million or more, most of which Westerners have never heard of. In fact, there are more cell phones in China than there are people in the United States. The percentage of the world’s high-rise construction cranes located in Dubai or Shanghai dwarf that of the United States, whose infrastructure is slowly deteriorating and is more fitting of the 1970s than of today. Many of the technologies that were engineered and initially constructed in the United States have been improved upon and are now being utilized in parts of urban Asia. If you ever have the chance to experiment with each, try taking the A Train from JFK International Airport to lower Manhattan and compare it to the 200mph maglev train from Shanghai’s International Airport to Pudong (constructed with German technology, notably). There will be no doubt in your mind which city is second rate and is positioned to lead world in the years to come.

The world’s true global city is shifting east. Since 1980, the U.S. has spent less than 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure and we are paying for it now. As much as I do not want taxes to increase, I realize that they must. The future of this great country depends on keeping up with the rest of the world, a world where we are no longer in the lead.

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