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China used more cement in two years than U.S. did in 100

Off-the-charts demand for concrete in China is one measure of the nation’s unprecedented urbanization. (lincolnblues/flickr/cc)

China’s urbanization is often portrayed in human terms. An estimated 20 million migrants and villagers flood into cities each year. Perhaps more telling are the concrete signs: new high-rises, airports, superhighways, rail lines, dams and so on.

Ana Swanson reports for the Washington Post that China used more cement from 2011 to 2013 than the United States did in the entire 20th century. That’s 6.4 gigatons (a gigaton is about a billion metric tons) for China, versus 4.4 gigatons for the U. S. In 1978, less than 20 percent of China’s citizens lived in cities; that figure will triple by 2020, she notes.

Beyond megacities like Shanghai and Beijing, the Pearl River Delta has morphed into a megalopolis that would be the world’s largest city if counted as a seamless urban area, the article says.

“What’s almost more impressive than China’s biggest cities is the incredible number of ‘small’ cities that no one has ever heard of,” Swanson writes. As of six years ago, there were 221 cities in China with populations topping 1 million — most of which are barely known outside the mainland. 

Washington Post

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