Reporter Journal / Chen Weihua

Candidates can't agree if US is a Third World country

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-06-13 11:04

In her June 2 speech on national security, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton mocked the Republican presumptive presidential candidate Donald Trump in a manner much like a late-night talk show.

The former secretary of state and former first lady described Trump as someone who doesn't understand America or the world, quoting Trump calling the US a "Third World country." For those words alone, Clinton claims that Trump does not deserve to lead the US.

A replay of Trump's speeches over the past months shows that when he described the US as a Third World country, he was referring to the dilapidated infrastructure, sometimes in contrast with China's.

For example, he said on Feb 20 before the South Carolina primary that "I see airports in different places of the world. You go to some of these Asian countries, you go to some of the Mideast. You go to Saudi Arabia, you go to Qatar, you go to different places in China. You see airports and infrastructure the likes of which you've never seen. They have in China trains that are so modern, so fast, so incredible, you never see that, we don't have anything. We got trains that go bup, bup. They're like from 150 years ago. We've become a Third World country."

Trump's words are largely correct. According to the authoritative World Airport Awards by UK-based Skytrax, no US airport made it into the top 20 airports in the world in the 2015 rating announced this year. The only US airport entering the top 30 was Denver's, ranking No 28.

Candidates can't agree if US is a Third World country

Meanwhile, Hong Kong International Airport was ranked No 5, Beijing Capital Airport No 16 and Taiwan Taoyuan Airport No 20. China's Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Xi'an Airport and Chengdu Airport made it into the top 50 while two other US airports that made it into the top 50 were Cincinnati/Kentucky Airport and San Francisco Airport.

In a word, more airports from China made it into the top 100 list than those in the US.

For high-speed rail, with speeds of at least 120 mph, China has by far the longest in the world. According to the International Union of Railways, there are 12,000 miles in operation and another 11,300 miles under construction in China, compared with second place Spain, which has 2,000 miles in operation and 1,120 miles under construction.

The US ranked 20th in the world, with only a length of 28 miles on the Acela Express, including an 18-mile stretch in Rhode Island and 10 miles in Massachusetts, with a maximum speed of 150 mph.

People can argue that the US is really a society on wheels, not on rails. But in terms of airports and trains, the US clearly lags behind Third World China.

Speeches by another Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, like the one I heard in the Armory Stadium in Washington last Thursday, clearly did not suggest the US was a First World country.

"We had the best rail system in the world. No longer the case," Sanders told the roaring crowd. Interestingly, Sanders said that "we can create up to 13 million good-paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, which is exactly what I intend to do." That number 13 million was exactly the number of new jobs created in China in 2015.

In his speech, Sanders said the US is not supposed to be a country that has more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth and the highest childhood poverty of almost any country on earth.

"This is the United States of America, we should not be having 47 million people living in poverty," he said.

"Why in God's name are we spending $80 billion a year to lock up 2.2 million fellow Americans?" he continued.

According to the London-based World Prison Population list by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the US has the world's largest prison population of 2.2 million, in contrast to China's 1.7 million even though China's total population is almost four times as big as that of the US.

The institute's figures show that the prison population rate, or per 100,000 of national population, was 119 in China compared with 698 in the US.

In her 2010 book, Third World America, the conservative-turned-liberal Arianna Huffington painted a picture of the US from its education system and infrastructure to its middle class and political system, which she said has descended from a 21st century superpower to a backwater banana republic.

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