In November, for example, the powerful National Development and Reform Commission approved plans to spend nearly $115 billion on 21 supersize infrastructure projects, including new airports and high-speed rail lines. "Clearly, China's cost advantages are going to shrink somewhat over the longer-term and prices for projects are only going to rise," says Victor Chuan Chen. "I think the government has done an admirable job in getting many of these projects off the ground while the economics were still very favorable." China is pushing the boundaries of infrastructure-building, with ever bolder proposals. The Dalian tunnel looks small compared with the latest idea to build an "international railway" that would link China to the United States by burrowing under the Bering Strait and creating a tunnel between Russia and Alaska.
But whether China really needs this much big infrastructure — or can even afford it — is a contentious issue. Some economists worry that China might eventually be mired in enormous debt (PDF) and many experts say such projects also exact a heavy toll on local communities and the environment, as builders displace people, clear forests, reroute rivers and erect dams. "It makes sense to accelerate infrastructure spending during a downturn, when capital and labor are underemployed," says David Dollar. But "if the growth rate is propped up through building unnecessary infrastructure, eventually there could be a sharp slowdown that reveals that the infrastructure was really not needed at all."
Some may protest that it is not English but Mandarin Chinese that will eventually become the world's language, because of the size of the Chinese population and the increasing economic might of their nation. But that's unlikely. For one, English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort. We retain the QWERTY keyboard and AC current for similar reasons. ... Yet more to the point, by 2115, it's possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today's 6,000. Japanese will be fine, but languages spoken by smaller groups will have a hard time of it."
Hypersonic weapons — or ballistic weapons that can hit a target flying many times faster than the speed of sound — have been hyped since the 1970s. Currently almost all of the major powers are trying to build them. The U.S. and China seem to be the furthest along, and are working on various types of systems. China hopes such weapons could be a game changer and deter any U.S. actions in Asia. There is, however, one big problem (besides the insane amount of technology to make them work, considering their speed): a possible arms race that could lead to a nuclear war:
"According to some analysts, the development of hypersonic weapons creates the conditions for a new arms race, and could risk nuclear escalation. Given that the course of hypersonic research has acknowledged both of these concerns, why have several countries started testing the weapons?"