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August 23, 2021

Cottage industries sprouting from China's nine-day traffic jam

Perhaps you’ve read already about China’s absurd nine-day, 100 km traffic jam – a monstrosity of infrastructural ineptitude that’s culminated in many Canadian papers running headlines like, “And you thought (Notoriously Bottlenecked Local Highway) was bad!”

Still, international mockery or not, this traffic situation near Beijing is unbelievably bad. Today marked the ninth day that thousands of vehicles bound for China’s capital have, well, hardly moved an inch.

What’s causing the jam – massive construction mixed with fender benders, broken-down cars and merging vehicles – isn’t so much newsworthy as what’s come of it.

Enterprising locals have begun to profit over the thousands of idled drivers, it appears, sprouting little cottage industries out of the standstill, no-end-in-sight traffic.

Indeed, one man’s misery is becoming another man’s profit in China, as residents along the congested 100 km traffic route have begun exploiting drivers by selling items such as instant noodles for jacked-up rates.

“(The noodles) are sold at four times the original price while I wait in the congestion,” one driver complained to China’s Global Times.

And on that note, the economics of the situation don’t exactly allow for browbeaten drivers to get off the stagnated highway, either.

Somehow, local truckers have calculated that it’s of less cost to stay on the bottlenecked road than to take an alternate route.

“We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs,” said the same driver, noting the pricey tolls along the suggested detour routes.

In any case, news today came that the unprecedented traffic jam could last as long as a full month, which would be ludicrous even by Chinese highway standards.

Chances are, certainly by the results of this poll, Canadians haven't witnessed anything like that on their commute home from work.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...