Tuesday, February 03, 2009

US car sales fall below China’s for first time

Hard to believe... the Financial Times has the story.

FT: Annualised US car sales slipped below 10m last month – and were less than China’s for the first time – in spite of steep discounts offered by carmakers and government efforts to ease lending.

...GM estimated the overall annualised selling rate for cars at 9.8m in the US in January, compared with 10.3m in December, and less than China’s estimated selling rate of 10.7m last month.

The times they are a changing...

Zheng He (Wikipedia): ...Zheng He commanded seven expeditions. The 1405 expedition consisted of 27,800 men and a fleet of 62 treasure ships supported by approximately 190 smaller ships. The fleet included ... Treasure ships, used by the commander of the fleet and his deputies (nine-masted, about 126.73 meters (416 ft) long and 51.84 metres (170 ft) wide), according to later writers. ... The treasure ships purportedly can carry as much as 1,500 tons. By way of comparison, a modern ship of about 1,200 tons is 60 meters (200 ft) long, and the ships Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492 were about 70-100 tons and 17 meters (55 ft) long.


Anonymous said...

Yet the idea of a fork and an alphabet escaped them.

Anonymous said...

They escaped the English too, until they borrowed them from the continent :-)

Anonymous said...

The Chinese have a unique problem. The Chinese language is very unlike all other languages. Chinese speaking English so badly can be explained by this dissimilarity.

Anonymous said...

I read an interesting book on the subject of the treasure ships a couple of years back. The voyages were an impressive achievement.


P said...

is the chinese vs european ship size a measure of economic or technical capability of the time or instead a comparison of silicon valley vs european approaches to investment (a la the ferguson book you recommended a while back)? ie small, flexble capital investments vs centrally-driven large investments? as well my guess (with little historical knowledge) is that the european ships faced bigger risks (whether crossing the atlantic or from battle) while the chinese ships were able to over-awe their neighbors with size and weren't taking risky cross-ocean trips - so smaller size made sense. i assume european ship sizes were optimized for their very competitive environment, not limited by technical or economic factors.

on the car thing, we're obviously moving to a world where China (and India) will have many more cars sold in total as per capita gaps continue to close - but i doubt this recent fluctuation is much indication of how quickly this is going to happen. the us dropping 50% is one driver of the current situation - i'm curious why china hasn't dropped as much. they're treating this downturn like the us did the 2001 downturn, ie without appreciable decline in consumption? their downturn started later and hasnt hit yet? the dynamics of their growth mean car consumption continues to grow in spite of the huge loss of projected gdp (relative to the established trend beforehand, as big as or bigger than the US for the next couple of years).

Unknown said...

@P, the Chinese ships made open-sea voyages at least to the Horn of Africa, which is quite as dangerous as a cross-Atlantic expedition. Columbus' expedition was also centrally funded.

Anonymous said...

Also on wikipedia:

"Most modern scholars consider these descriptions to be exaggerated."

"would have been several times larger than any wooden ship ever recorded since, including the largest, l'Orient (65 m long) in the late 18th century."

Very, very, very un-likely.

A clear case of confirmation bias on Steve's part.

The theory he wishes to confirm may be paraphrased as:

"The Chinese are the master race."

Steve Hsu said...

I'm no expert on the history of nautical technology, but I didn't think it was controversial that the Chinese were way ahead in Zheng He's time, not just in size of ships but in key technologies like watertight compartments.

If I am mistaken, let me know.

Here is Needham on
Chinese nautical history

P said...

HMS Victory (late 1700's ship) was a little over 200 feet long - a good example I assume of european wooden ship building techniques approaching their zenith. Much smaller than Zheng's ship in spite of (I assume by this time, the 1700's) more advanced ship-building techniques and economic capabilities in Europe. I still say the biggest reason for the difference in ship size was their missions. Inferior European ship building methods seems reasonable through at least the 1300/1400's but I would assume not much longer afterwards given the competition that sprung up between European nations.

On central funding, I remember the story about Columbus going to Queen Isabella for money - so central funding agreed. But Columbus's expedition wasn't centrally planned by a bunch of gov't bureaucrats whereas I'm guessing Zheng's was the product of central government planning and had less of an economic imperative driving it's construction.

Anonymous said...

The idea that China was once the technical equal of Europe is easily exaggerated.

The monumental architecture of China, including the great wall, is not on a par with that of Greece and Rome or medieval Europe.

The Chinese knew nothing of plumbing.

More recently the technical and material accomplishments of the USSR from 1918-1939 were far greater than those of Communist China.

Those, like Steve, who prefer a genetic explanation for the differences in human accomplishment yet who are not Europeans have a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

P said...

Anonymous - give it a rest, dude. I can see why recent posts on comment control. Seems pretty clear there is a genetic basis for performance differences between races - no whites in the Olympic 100, Jews with substantially higher average IQs. Also pretty obvious chinese civilization in the first and well into the second millenium was more technically advanced than europe (please don't go on about the greeks and romans). Steve - appreciate the thought provoking posts...

Steve Hsu said...

Anonymous 8:04 and 9:30, I know you're a troll so I won't get into a detailed discussion with you.

But, for the record, since people seem quite sensitive about these issues, my opinion is that genetic factors are just a few among many (culture, institutions, history, geography) that affect the development of civilizations. Even among genetically-influenced factors, intelligence might be less important than personality traits such as risk tolerance, aggressivity, curiosity, etc., which could also vary between groups.

At the moment we can't be absolutely sure any cognitive or personality factors vary, due to genes, between groups.

gcochran said...

The whole Zheng Ho story has always reminded me of the Apollo Project. I don't believe it paid.

Anonymous said...

I've read that traits like risk tolerance and curiosity are observed to be influenced by early parent care in mice -- those whom are licked by the mother more often become more adventurous and curious.

This is speculated to be an adaptation: in the wild, environmental stresses such as predation lead to degraded nurturing of the young, while young mice growing up around feline population need to be more cautious in their behavior.

Anonymous said...

Our host is not that stupid to believe in a "chinese master race". Try visiting the rural areas in China, and it will dispel almost anybody's notion of a "chinese master race".

The same can be said about almost any conceivable "master race". For example, if one has ever visited rural areas in Israel away from the big cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa, etc ..., it will dispel almost anybody's notion of a "jewish master race".

There is no real "Lake Woebegone" in this world.


Anonymous said...

"The Chinese knew nothing of plumbing."
I truly doubt that claim:
There are other archaeological findings, there is a exposition region in "Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor" in Xi'an showing its underground drainage system.

"More recently the technical and material accomplishments of the USSR from 1918-1939 were far greater than those of Communist China."
Russia came into contact with modern science from Peter The Great era, while for China it began only around 1900. Even today China is still learning some important technologies from Russia. So what?

Anonymous said...

"Also pretty obvious chinese civilization in the first and well into the second millenium was more technically advanced than europe"

James Burke explains the arrested development of China with one word, "Tao". I favor a genetic explanation.

Not really.

Anonymous said...

Tapping into Sailer's site will get one the bio-realists along with the sub-set of racial nationalists. Sailer's so good, he's a must-read for anyone who wishes to conquer the world. (Or merely preserve what little piece of it they control.)

Anonymous said...

Tapping into Sailer's site gets the bio-realists along with a sub-set of hostile racial nationalists. The supremacists of every country no doubt read Sailer.

kurt9 said...

Why should it be a surprise that more cars would be sold in China than the U.S. in a given year? This just means that China's economy is growing, relative to ours.

First, China has 4 times our population. As China develops, sooner or later there will be more people who buy and own cars in China than the U.S. The absolute size of the market will be bigger.

Second, most car sales in the U.S. are replacement sales where the customer replaces an old car with a new car. The only sales to new customers are to young people buying their first car, which is a small part of the market. In China, most people still do not own cars. So, most car sales will be to new customers. So, sales to first-time buyers will be much larger too.

Even if many people live the "urban" life in the Eastern cities, they will still buy one car per couple or family so they can go places on the weekend (ride the train or subway to work during the week).

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