President Obama has stressed the need for investing in America’s crumbling infrastructure, but with federal transportation money becoming scarce, the U.S. is asking China for help.
Chinese investments are already helping improve American bridges and roads, and it may save California’s transportation infrastructure plans.
Los Angeles has rolled out the red carpet for the man who is likely the future leader of China. Vice President Xi Jinping took a tour of the China Shipping terminal, where the company just completed a 47 million dollar expansion at the Port of Los Angeles. More than 120 billion dollars of Chinese goods passed through the terminal just last year.
Trade isn’t the only item on the agenda. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also hoping that the Chinese invest in the city’s infrastructure, including public transportation and ports.
“We used to be number one in our quality of infrastructure, now we’re down to number 32. Behind Barbados, behind Spain behind a lot of other countries,” said Caroline Heldman, Professor of Politics at Occidental College. “Really, our infrastructure has been crumbling,” she added.
“How do we sit back while Europe and Chinese build new roads and shiny airports,” said President Obama during a recent campaign stop. Obama has proposed $50 billion for surface transportation in his newest budget.
The White House has said that infrastructure improvements are a top priority, but the U.S. lags behind Europe and China when it comes to infrastructure investment. The administration has said that Chinese firms will play a role in financing infrastructure throughout the U.S.
“I don’t think it’s an ideal situation, I would prefer the money go to American corporations but the jobs will go to Americans and in that sense it will boost the economy,” said Heldman.
Chinese firms are already working on huge bridge projects in California, New York and Alaska.
Political leaders defended the contracts, claiming Chinese companies would be more efficient, but that has spurred criticism over China’s work conditions and the devaluing of their currency.
“We can’t compete with that. Not because we’re not better engineers or because we don’t know how to manufacture, but because it’s not a level playing field. We need to get a level playing field back,” said Richard Eskow, Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future.
In the U.S. some blame excessive environmental regulations and political bickering in D.C. for our inability to invest more in infrastructure. An investment many see as key to economic recovery and keeping the US competitive, and one it seems the Chinese are willing to make.