Here is a different twist on urbanization: competition for the world’s fastest elevator. Think ever-higher skyscrapers, not amusement-park rides. You can ride the record holder at Shanghai Tower. It travels at about 20 meters per second on the ascent; the speed is slower on the fall. China is the center ring for competition in this business; there are at least four times more elevators in China than the US. But slower Chinese growth means that the elevator business is cutthroat. The trend suggests that super-fast elevator manufacturers, like Hitachi and Mitsubishi, are more focused on marketing spin than recurring demand. Perhaps they are taking a lesson from British Airways and Air France. The race-for-speed is a vertical Concorde strategy.

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