Cars in China Today: What does this little picture say to you?

This little picture gives us a few ideas about cars in China today.  Important if we bear in mind that today is the first day of the future.

China traffic third Beling ring road - all new and clean

The first striking feature of course is the fact that this shows a typical morning on Beijing’s Third Ring Road (third out of a present total of six, each longer and wider than one before it).  With now the latest, biggest and newest planned road that they are calling “the Great Beijing Outer Ring Road”, which one witty local reporter pointed out “will run for almost 1,000 km, and take you back to exactly where you started from” ( .

The vehicle population of China reached 240 million last year, of which 120 million were passenger cars, according to a statement by the Ministry of Public Security on its website. The 15.1 million new cars added last year were more than the entire car population at the end of 1999, the ministry said.

The second thing that strikes the eye (and surely a bit of terror into the heart of the diligent policy maker), is  the fact that every one of these vehicles looks new and spanking clean. Oops.

For policy makers this means that it is going to be no mean trick to get all of these proud owners out of their fine cars and into something else.

Quite a challenge, eh?

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About the editor

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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3 thoughts on “Cars in China Today: What does this little picture say to you?

  1. Also the Chinese cities will have to address car ownership. It needs initiatives for Car-SHaring systems that really can replace private cars. As the City of Bremen was selected with its Car-Sharing strategy for the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai/China, some calculation were made about potential impacts in Chinese cities.
    Bremen (550,000 inhabitants) has a Car-Sharing strategy aiming at replacing private cars and reclaiming street space. The (in comaprison to Chinese cities quite small city) wants to have 20,000 Car-Sharing users by 2020 – but more important replacing 6,000 cars by a fleet of about 500 Car-Sharing cars. Today Bremen has reached about 10,000 (from being around 5,000 when drafting the strategy in 2009).
    There is a recent documentation about Car-Sharing in China to be downloaded in English or Chinese:

    For cities, the chapter about municipal strategies might be of special interest: “the eight treasures of municiapal Car-Sharing support” (p 40ff) – with the focus on how to replace private and reclaim street space.

  2. These poor Chinese – do they have to walk in our dirty tracks? In the picture I spot some buses, stuck in the same jam. I raise my hand for bus or HOV lanes.


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