High-Speed Train: Made in China?

High speed train

The high-speed trains in Wuhan, China

Source: New York Times

It ONLY takes six years for China to build the world’s largest high speed rail system, with 6,800 miles of tracks, connecting most of the big cities—From Heilongjiang in the north to the Hainan, the South end of China. The route between the China’s Political center and financial center—Beijing and Shanghai, carry more than 220 million passengers since its open in 2011.China is still leapfrogging on development of high-speed rail system: Beijing plans to double the network in 2020 , extending the track to Xinjiang Region in the far west.


Source: The Forbes

But Beijing is not still satisfied with the domestic high speed rail system, China is now reaching out to build its high-speed rail system beyond the border.


The first Turkish high-speed train

Source: New York Times

Chinese government has signed agreement to build rail line in Turkey, Venezuela and Argentina, and are bidding on more projects with other countries. The first Turkish high-speed train, build with Chinese assistance, links the capital of Ankara to Istanbul, the country’s largest city. This projects marks the first step China export its high-speed technology to the whole world. In July, China has made a deal with British Government during the visit of Chinese premier Li Keqiang in British. This deal will allow China to take a decisive stake in the transportation infrastructure, and enhance substantive cooperation between UK and China including design, engineering, construction, supply operation and maintenance on high-speed rail projects.

But some other proposed projects seem very crazy. A project named “China-Russia-Canada-America” line was reported in the official media. The proposed line would be for 13,000km, begins from the north-east of China, passes through a tunnel underneath Pacific Ocean and reaches the US finally. But this project is just one of the four incredible international high-speed rail projects currently in the works: The Frist is a line running from London via Paris, Berlin to China. The second line would begin in Urumqi and reaches in Germany finally. The third would begin in south-western of China and ends in Singapore. The video is about the debate of the  “China-Russia-Canada-America” line on CNN. 

BUT the engineers in China may be a little bit too confident to some extent. These projects are almost impossible from engineering, economic and political stand of point.

And so are the leaders in China. The miracle in China may not happen likewise in the other country for many reasons other than technical issues. First, the negotiation cost may be very high in the other countries, which may eliminate the advantage of China’s bid in terms of cost. In the case of Turkey, the Construction Corporation’s project manager in Turkey, Liu Zhiyi, says, “Turkey lacks railway construction know-how, so many changes had to be made to the route design during the construction process, which was a serious challenge for us”.Second, the safety of China’s high-speed rail system is another the major concern. After the horrible accident in Wenzhou in July of year 2011, the confidence in the system were seriously shaken, though the official emphasized that the poor management was to blame. Third, the competitiveness from the Japan may undermine the strategy of China. The Japan has won the contract to upgrade a track from Myanmar’s commercial capital to Mandalay, a job that China originally scheduled to do. And now once again, China and Japan are in race to sell India their high-speed network currently. China is also said to copy the technology from Japan.


China and Japan are in race to sell India their high-speed rail system

Resource: Watch China

China are also facing great obstacles in developing countries where political and economic situation can be very unstable. For example, China’s projects in Myanmar and Thailand has been shelved for financial and political reasons. The global strategy itself may be questionable in terms of the great uncertainty of economics and political benefits of oversee projects.








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