Why a Big Piece of New Bay Bridge Is From China

There was no small amount of head-scratching when Gov. Schwarzenegger visited Shanghai over the weekend and touted the building of a big piece of the Bay Bridge's new eastern span. Since when, asked Politico, does an American politician tout the value of Chinese labor?

The answer is this: the Bay Bridge is overdue and over budget. So real progress is to be celebrated. And like any major infrastructure project, it's a global project, with parts and pieces being manufactured in seven foreign countries and more than two dozen U.S. cities (12 of them in California). An excellent description of the entire project was published by the McSweeney's newspaper project known as Panorama last year, and is worth a look here.

Why China? The ability to build such a span, and price. Only Shanghai’s Zhenhua Port Machinery Co. (ZPMC) had the manufacturing capacity to do such a big structure; if such forging and construction was to be done domestically, a new facility would have to be built. And that had an effect on price. Panorama concluded: "Chinese steel and labor was $400 million cheaper than it was for domestic steel fabrication."

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