Their Moon Shot and Ours

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Thomas Friedman says that China is doing at least four moon shots right now — meaning big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments:

One is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.

Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan.

Just imagine what an Asian economic power could do if its government and industry worked together on the next generation of computing technology


  1. Borepatch says:


    A guy as smart as Friedman, you’d think he’d have heard of John Chambers, and letting the market pick your winners.

  2. David Foster says:

    People like Friedman always focus on snazzy-looking passenger trains rather than on the workaday freight trains that are so vital to every industrial economy. Chinese railroad expert Zhao Jian (quoted in Financial Times) argues that the country would do better to focus on conventional rail and passenger equipment operable thereon. “The government just wants to have the biggest and fastest number one train set in the world.”

    When I was in Spain several years ago, I picked up a history book which said the entire shape of the Spanish rail network had been heavily distorted by political considerations, and that the northern part of the country was still paying the price for this awkward configuration.

    I doubt if Friedman has made any serious study of either passenger or freight railroading, but this of course doesn’t stop him from opining about the wonderfulness of China’s strategy.

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