A graphic illustration of China’s prowess in building its national high-speed passenger rail network caused a minor sensation as it made the rounds on Twitter last week.
Like a colorful time-lapse photograph, only employing bar graphs instead of, say, plant life, it showed a lively dance of nations contending for leadership in the rollout of high-speed rail, beginning in 1976. In the early years, Japan and France jousted for the crown, looking almost unassailable, only to be matched and then passed by Germany and Spain. Only well into the display, starting in 2003, did a new contender appear and then, in a blink, not just take over the lead, but completely dominate the field.
As most everyone who saw this graphic had to know, China, which has been building infrastructure at a world historic pace since late in the last century, was destined to come out as the leader in the end. That, in fact, is part of what made this display so powerful. How long could the predestined champion wait before beginning its efforts, only to crush the competition?