You’ve got to hand it to the Chinese government

When it comes to carrying out major projects quickly, their authoritarian structure undoubtedly is able to deliver the goods. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the government built a 1,000 bed hospital in just 10 days in Wuhan city, the center of the outbreak that has killed over 200 people and for which there are over 10,000 confirmed cases. Construction began on January 24 and the hospital is due to open today. You can see a time-lapse of the construction.

This is not the first time China has done something on this scale so fast. In 2003, in response to the SARS epidemic, they built a hospital in just seven days, so they seem to have these things down.

“China has a record of getting things done fast even for monumental projects like this,” says Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He points out that the hospital in Beijing in 2003 was built in seven days so the construction team is probably attempting to beat that record. Just like the hospital in Beijing, the Wuhan centre will be made out of prefabricated buildings.

“This authoritarian country relies on this top down mobilisation approach. They can overcome bureaucratic nature and financial constraints and are able to mobilise all of the resources.”

Mr Huang said that engineers would be brought in from across the country in order to complete construction in time.

“The engineering work is what China is good at. They have records of building skyscrapers at speed. This is very hard for westerners to imagine. It can be done,” he added.

Maybe the US government could contract with the Chinese government to deal with domestic disasters like the Puerto Rican earthquakes.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Maybe the US government could contract with the Chinese government to deal with domestic disasters like the Puerto Rican earthquakes.

    That was nasty 🙂 .

  2. Sam N says

    Eh, I’m not at all impressed with this ‘feat’. You want to build shitty prefab bed space it’s no problem any industrialized place on Earth. If you removed all studies of impact related to civil engineering and the US can build garbage real estate just as fast as China.

  3. John Morales says

    I’m reminded of that adage to the effect that a product can have two of elements of [fast, cheap, good], but not all three.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    @John Morales: that’s an engineering saying. Another concept is the huge gulf between “good” and “good enough”. Clearly in an emergency, “good enough” is all you need.

  5. says

    Oh well, when the roof starts to leak and mould grows on the walls they’ll be able to repurpose it as an reeducation camp for dissidents.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Before it ever gets old enough for that to happen they’ll have demolished it and replaced it with something else

  7. ardipithecus says

    “It’s better to do the wrong thing quickly than it is to take too long to do the right thing,” -- N. Bonaparte

  8. sonofrojblake says

    One other thing: where did you get the idea that the “built in a week” hospital was cheap?

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 Sam N
    I doubt that the is another country in the world that can do what China did from a standing start in even if the decision was made 5 days before breaking ground or early planning started on the first of January.

    It is not so much the actual construction but the organization. One needs the prefab buildings and specialized equipment in storage and ready to be shipped, the knowledge and ability to put together the construction teams and so on. Sticking up the buildings is impressive; the planning and logistics are amazing.

    Other countries, including the USA could do it if they had everything in place. Huston and Puerto Riro suggest the US does not currently have this in place. I am pretty sure my county, Canada, does not.

  10. lorn says

    IMHO this is mostly eye-wash.

    We are talking about a virus. There is no vaccine. Antibiotics are useless. Time and basic support are what are needed.

    Treatment is going to be bed rest, push fluids, and food as tolerated. Keep them clean, monitor temperature and sats, use O2 as needed to keep sats up. Let time pass.

    In bad cases, so far reported as less than 5%, a respirator and associated meds might be tried. Antivirals might be tried.

    While building a hospital fast is certainly impressive it isn’t helpful. It does show a willingness to act. A grand gesture. Showboating.

    All the treatments, and precautions against spread can be handled at home or any reasonably habitable interior space with minimally trained people.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @13 John Morales
    Does this still hold?
    According to evacuees, they will have to pay $1000 and sign a waiver allowing them to be quarantined at the Christmas Island detention centre for up to 14 days.

    After their stay on Christmas Island, they will be dropped off in Perth and have to pay their own way to their city of residence.

    Canada hopes to have a plain in Wuhan on Thursday 2020/02/07. I wonder if we are charging?

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