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China’s railway goes global and benefits world

Updated: Sep 23,2015 1:54 PM     Xinhua

Visitors admire a bullet train model produced by CSR (China South Railway) on May 1 at Expo Milano 2015. [Xinhua]

BEIJING — President Xi Jinping is starting on Sept 22 a four-day state visit to the United States, during which the first US high-speed railway with Chinese investment is likely to be confirmed to start construction in September 2016.

The China-US partnership project of the 370-km Xpress West high-speed railway, also named the Southwest Rail Network, will connect Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles in the US western state of California.

Chinese rails connect world

After years of technological upgrades and innovations, China has lifted its high-speed railway technologies to the most advanced of the world.

Of a total length of over 110,000 km of rails Chinese companies have built, the 16,000-km high-speed lines account for more than half of that across the globe.

Rails built with Chinese investment have penetrated corners of the world in recent years and benefited many countries and regions economically and socially by creating jobs and facilitating transportation, among other interests.

Before Xi starts his first state visit to the United States since taking office in 2013, the Las Vegas-based XpressWest company agreed earlier this month to form a joint venture with China Railway International USA Co. to build and operate the rail, said Shu Guozeng, deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs of China.

It is agreed that implementation of necessary regulatory and commercial activities will begin within the next 100 days. With $100 million in initial capital, the new high-speed rail line is expected to create abundant jobs throughout the interstate corridor.

“The project will be a landmark in overseas investment for the Chinese railway sector and serve as a model of international cooperation,” said Yang Zhongmin, chairman of China Railway International Co., Ltd.

With the US project, the network of Chinese railway projects covers nearly all inhabited continents, as China’s railway equipment manufacturers have sped up efforts to “go overseas.”

In 2014, China’s first overseas high-speed railway project was completed in Turkey, where a 533-km railway links capital Ankara with Istanbul.

In Africa, China-built rails have been or will be the backbone of the local public transport system and a key component of growth in a number of countries, including Nigeria and Ethiopia.

After a 1,344-km railroad project in Angola was put into operation in 2014, China signed a deal last May to build a rail link worth $3.8 billion between the two Kenyan cities of Mombasa and Nairobi, the first phase of a line that will eventually connect countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

In the Asian and Pacific region, the world’s fastest meter-gauge multiple unit trains made by a Chinese company were put into operation in Malaysia earlier this month. Laos, Thailand and Russia are also planning to build railway lines with Chinese investment.

In South America, trains made by China began running on the Mitre commuter route in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires last November. In the European country of Macedonia, Chinese trains will operate soon as the country inked a deal with China in June to purchase six fleets of high-speed trains.

Means of diplomacy

The Chinese railway industry has become a means of diplomacy as China’s bullet trains and high-speed rail have become buzzwords in the news coverage of meetings between Chinese leaders and their overseas counterparts.

Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, lauded the Chinese railway sector, saying “high-speed trains mark China’s rising power and influence globally.”

As an advocate of the Chinese high-speed railway, Premier Li Keqiang has made all-out efforts during many foreign trips to highlight the country’s high-speed rail technology, saying it ensures cost-effective projects without sacrificing quality.

In October 2013, Li’s speech at the Thai parliament was widely reported by global media outlets, with many focusing on his “sales pitch” on behalf of China’s railway industry.

One month later, he stressed the advantage of Chinese railway equipment and technologies in addressing a trade forum between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries in Bucharest, Romania.

In May 2014, Li said at the headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia that China would actively participate in infrastructure projects in Africa and build a high-speed rail research center in the continent.

He has pushed for bilateral cooperation in the railway sector during his other overseas trips, including that to Britain in June 2014 and the four-nation tour in Latin America in May.

All-win results

The purpose of Chinese leaders’ promotion of China’s railway projects abroad is to boost cooperation, and achieve common development and prosperity.

With Chinese high-speed railways and standards globally recognized, related projects have become a highlight in production capacity cooperation between China and other countries, according to experts.

Building railways abroad and exporting related equipment and technologies lead to all-win situations for both China and its foreign partners, as such cooperation will facilitate China’s endeavor to upgrade its national economy and allow partner countries to enjoy all the benefits of these projects at lower costs.

Chinese companies and those in developed nations may work together to produce high-quality, inexpensive equipment and develop huge markets in third-party countries, Li recently told the annual meeting of the Summer Davos Forum in China’s northeast port city of Dalian.

China is ready to buy advanced technology and equipment from developed countries and combine them with its mid-range equipment to satisfy the needs of developing nations, serving as a bridge for international cooperation in production capacity, he said.

China’s proposal of building the “One Belt and One Road” and expanding international cooperation in production capacity, said Li, would further open up China’s economy, allow each country to display its comparative strengths and help forge a more balanced and inclusive global industrial chain.

Huang Bin, a China expert with the Thai think tank Kasikorn Research Center, noted that the railway project between Thailand and China, once completed, could serve as a model for China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and demonstrate to the world how projects of its kind can promote the economy.

“Furthermore, Thailand’s railways will lead all the way to Europe via China’s railway network, making the country the real ASEAN transport hub,” he said. “Time will prove that the Thai government has made a wise decision by cooperating with China.”