Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:54 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:54 | SYDNEY

High-speed rail: China white elephant?


Sam Roggeveen


9 June 2011 11:02

James Fallows sums up the hysteria about China's rise in this mock quote: "I just rode the bullet train to Tianjin, and holy shit, we're doomed!"

China's high-speed rail network symbolises some of what is changing in China: it is world-class technology being rolled out at break-neck speed. But there's a dark side: safety and engineering standards may not be up to snuff, Chinese domestic firms have 'borrowed' liberally from European and Japanese train technology, and the economics of the whole scheme is under question.

Regular readers will recall we ran a three-part series in March by University of Adelaide academic Roger Irvine on the explosive growth of China's high speed rail network. Check out part three in particular for some sober reminders of the risks China is taking with high-speed rail, and some hints that the program may not be as successful as its boosters believe.

Those doubts are now reinforced by an article in the Chinese business magazine Caixin (The Interpreter regularly shares content with Caixin Online). It's a notable piece from a Chinese publication because it is so frank in its criticism, and can be counted alongside recent commentary about the Three Gorges Dam as an example of internal criticism of a major infrastructure project.

(H/t The Infrastructurist.)

Photo by Flickr user Remko Tanis.