Pride and Cost for Chinese Railways

China is once again starting to build Californian railways. 150 years after the 19th century gold rush, Beijing’s evolution disembarks on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to build by 2020 a 744 kilometer railway from San Francisco to Anaheim, slightly south of Los Angeles and host to Disneyland. But this time collaboration agreements between the two countries are different.
Chinese workers increasingly disenchanted from their role as underpaid manufacturers, ‘coolies’ as they were once known at the establishment of Union Pacific. Instead, Chinese technologists, engineers, and financial experts are leading both the construction and the collaboration with the US. Now, China will therefore export mental — as opposed to physical — labor.
Its government has already signed a preliminary agreement with the state of California and General Electric regarding the construction of high-speed railway service between the two metropolis. Technological equipment and railway service experts will be provided by Beijing, allowing for the establishment of a 350/km high speed train.
China is trying to monetize its own technological progresses on clean energy use, and domestic funding for its foreign projects. China’s shifting role is also determined by its expertise in electric power, as opposed to GE’s one on diesel fuel (less functioning for high-speed transport).
Even more ironically, the agreement states that all labor, as well as 80 percent of the installation and machinery will originate from California. Consequently, China will export technology, not labor. China Railway, a state-owned company listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, is also reaching out to the international market. Its most recent project — worth a significant 4.8 million dollars — is taking place in Indonesia. Others vary from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey and, on a smaller scale, throughout Africa as well. The company’s technicians are also planning three high frequency trains between South East Asia, Central Asia, and European Russia: a new kind of Trans-Siberian line.
It is important to underline, however, that China’s utmost international success is also greatly due to its domestic development. The Chinese government recently adopted a new strategy in favor of high-speed railway services at the expense of magnetic levitation. This innovation was also closely tied to environmental concerns, bringing even better light to China.
In 2012, China is expected to overtake Germany and Japan with its 13,000km railway tracks, making it the leading global power in the field. By 2020, China plans on completing railway services extending all along the coast from Dalian to Hainan.
Despite its railway system’s rapid growth, however, there is an internal sign of disagreement on unnecessary economic consumption over achievement. Some locals believe these projects, which are usually funded by the state, to be excessively costly in comparison to the needs of Chinese society. Furthermore, highway and air traffic might face a very harsh competition, leaving railway services as the biggest source of transportation.
Finally, Chinese locals are lamenting towards a sharp increase in prices because they are used to paying rates relative to standard state-provided trains. To them, higher quality in comfort doesn’t make up for higher fares. In fact, the millions of Chinese workers who returned home to enjoy the Chinese New Year preferred saving money as opposed to time.

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