“The Commie Train’s A’Comin,’” proclaims Debra Heine, referring to subway cars manufactured by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC). As American cities aim to purchase these cars, they should know that the Commie Bridge is already here: the new span of the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, California.
The original double-deck span dated from the 1930s and suffered damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989. The bridge was quickly repaired and reopened a month later, but a retrofit to withstand larger quakes would have cost $250 million. California politicians, primarily San Francisco Democrats, wanted a new span, at an estimated cost of $1 billion. American workers eager to participate in the project would soon be disappointed.
California politicians rejected federal funding because it required the use of steel manufactured in the United States. California opted for Chinese steel, and Chinese labor as well. The bridge decks and materials were constructed in China, leaving American workers to assemble the parts, pour the concrete surface, and so forth.
California selected the state-owned Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company, which at the time had no experience building bridges. Zhenhua’s 3,000 employees on the project included steel-cutters, welders, polishers, and engineers. In 2000 UC Berkeley structural engineering professor Abolhasaan Astaneh-Asl said the new design was not earthquake safe. Chinese materials also proved troublesome.
The Chinese steel was too brittle, experts testified, and in 2007 fissures began appearing in thick steel bars. In 2009, the company shipped from China the main bridge tower and 28 bridge decks. Engineers found hundreds of cracks in the welds, a violation of the contract, and every one of the 750 panels had to be repaired. In 2013, dozens of the long metal rods on the project snapped and the rainy season revealed other defects.
During storms, water leaked into the supposedly watertight steel chamber supporting the bridge’s roadbed. Efforts to caulk about 900 bolt holes for guard rails had been only partly successful and water was collecting inside the splay chambers, the supposedly sealed rooms where the main bridge cable is secured to the new span. The cable strands vibrate thousands of times a day from trucks passing over the bridge and rust could make the strands vulnerable to cracking.
Professor Astaneh-Asl, who warned about faulty design, told reporters he declines to use the bridge. On top of everything else, the project came in 10 years late and a full $5 billion over budget, a boondoggle enabled by an equally shaky diplomatic bridge from the 1990s.
The United States accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union through military strength, strategic alliances, and measures such as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which restricted trade with nonmarket economies and nations that do not allow free emigration. After the break-up of the USSR, leadership of the Communist movement pivoted to the People’s Republic of China. Instead of employing the same strategies that took down the USSR, the American ruling class decided to leave China’s regime in place and granted Beijing special privileges.
“Today the president signed a proclamation granting permanent normal trading relations (PNTR) status to the People’s Republic of China and terminating application of Jackson-Vanik provisions to China,” announced President George W. Bush on December 12, 2001. “Taking effect January 1, 2002, this is the final step in normalizing U.S.-China trade relations and welcoming China into a global, rules-based trading system.” The announcement also hailed China’s successful entry into the the World Trade Organization.
This accommodation came long after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, with China deploying military force against peaceful protesters calling for democracy, free elections, human rights and such. In 1999, The Black Book of Communism tallied 65 million murders by China, the most of all the Communist regimes. This genocidal Stalinist dictatorship, America’s ruling class contended, could be relied on to follow a “rules-based trading system.”
Americans would get consumer goods at low-low prices and the Chinese would become more democratic and respect human rights. It didn’t quite work out that way. China, which has occupied Tibet since the 1950s, is more repressive and expansionist than ever. Even so, the regime has a champion in San Francisco Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein.
As Ben Weingarten noted at the Federalist in 2018, Feinstein’s husband has “profited handsomely from the greatly expanded China trade she supported.” The senator “served as a key intermediary between China and the U.S. government, while serving on committees whose work would be of keen interest to the PRC.” All this, plus a Chinese spy on her staff through three election cycles. China boasts another asset in Delaware Democrat Joe Biden.
In 1989, Senator Biden voted against strong sanctions on Communist China as a response to the Tiananmen massacre. In 1998, the United States again proposed sanctions on the PRC, including visa restrictions. Biden was part of a group of 10 senators opposed to the measures. In 2001, Biden, then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported China’s entry to the WTO. As he explained, “the United States welcomes the emergence of a prosperous, integrated China on the global stage, because we expect this is going to be a China that plays by the rules.”
In 2020, candidate Biden said the Chinese were “not bad folks” and not even competition for the United States. Like Feinstein, Biden has financial entanglements with China, and if the Communist regime ever did anything with which the Delaware Democrat disagreed, it’s hard to know what it might be. China is now setting up police stations in the United States, a sure sign the Chinese Communist Party thinks they own the place. The Xi-Biden Administration might be more accurate than Biden-Harris.
In 2020, Biden told reporters he would bar Chinese companies from building critical infrastructure in the United States. The Delaware Democrat seemed unaware that a Chinese company built the new Bay Bridge, still riddled with safety issues.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a major quake is due in the Bay Area by 2032. On the other hand, as California’s experience confirms, an earthquake can happen at any time. The next one will put the new span to the test.
“If a single component fails, the whole thing comes down,” professor Astaneh-Asl explains. “Fracture critical bridges have been out of favor since the 1960s. And when you look at this new span, there are many things that can go wrong.” What can go wrong usually does.
In 2013, when apprised of the safety concerns, then-governor Jerry Brown famously shrugged it off, saying, “I mean, look, shit happens.” That describes the entire state in recent years, with literal application in San Francisco. Watch where you step, and good luck to any cities that buy subway cars from China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation.