INFOGRAPHIC: China's highway system may be the biggest thing ever built by mankind

By Erik Crouch, June 11, 2015

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In 1956, the United States passed the Federal Aid Highway Act, which built the world's biggest expressway network. When the first main stretch of the project was completed, it weighted in at more than 75,000 kilometers (49,000 miles) long and was called "the largest engineering project the world has ever known." Since then, the US interstate highway system has been cited as the biggest "thing" ever built by mankind by trivia questions and Snapple caps alike.

It's certainly possible to dispute the title - when researching this, I found someone who said the biggest man-made thing was "The Internet," citing every inch of cable and the volume of the radio waves circling the earth, but that just seems ridiculous - but if you accept the premise of the record then we have to say "Sorry, Americans." China has got you beat - and it doesn't look like you're going to reclaim the title anytime soon.

The infographic below shows China's absolutely gargantuan inter-province expressway system, snaking a massive 111,950 kilometers (69,500 miles) from north to south, east to west and from multi-million person city to multi-multi-multi-million person city. After China and the United States, the competition drops off pretty quickly; Germany, home to the first-ever highway system, now comes in a mere fifth, while Russia plays into our stereotype that, secretly, zero people live in Siberia.

To add insult to record-losing injury, China hasn't just passed the United States - it has passed it in the last decade alone. The American system has essentially been considered a done deal since the turn of the 21st century, and construction has been minimal. China, on the other hand, has been building as if its life (well, economy) depended on it. The red lines, representing highways built just since 2005, represent one hell of a building boom - and one that's not stopping any time too soon.

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