January 18, 2018
China will soon start rolling out its next-generation rail technology across the country, and it is likely the futuristic trains won’t only have passengers on board.
Christened Fuxing, which means “renaissance” or “rejuvenation” in Mandarin, the bullet trains will be able to cruise at 400 kilometres per hour and will replace the slower Hexie (“harmony”) locomotives on the nation’s sprawling 22,000 km high-speed rail network.
The first two have been shuttling passengers between Beijing and Shanghai since their commercial debut in June 2017, cutting the commuting time from the capital to the coastal economic powerhouse to a little more than three hours.
But it is believed the trains have also been designed for a security role, as they will be capable of rapidly deploying troops, military materiel, weapons and other firepower if the need arises.
Now that almost all counties in the eastern and central provinces and major cities elsewhere have been connected to at least one high-speed rail line, it will be a simple matter to shift reinforcements and supplies, and it will be much quicker than on the choked road system.
Fuxing’s high-speed locomotives carry bigger railcars than those on the old Hexie trains, offering greater logistical flexibility for shipments of troops contingents and bulky equipment. Trains can be shielded more easily from enemy surveillance than trucks and, unlike airborne troop-carriers, are less vulnerable to inclement weather.
Trains have been used as military transporters for decades, but were first armored and modified to carry missiles, including nuclear warheads, by the Soviet Union.
In the 1980s the communist state devised a heavy purpose-built railcar to hold the RT-23 Molodets intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch vehicle; Western countries immediately realised the advantage of the railcars: they could be hidden anywhere there was a track.
“As it was impossible to precisely determine the place where they could fire a nuclear missile, they were dubbed as ‘death’ or ‘phantom’ trains,” the Washington-based National Interest reported in its February 2017 issue, citing Russian papers.
The RT-23 was followed by the Molodets BZhRK SS-24 Scalpel and by 2020 the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces are scheduled to take delivery of the latest version, the RS-27 or SS-X-31\32Zh Barguzin BZhRK. Like its predecessors, the RS-27 is a distinct class of launch vehicle for rail-mounted intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Moscow has signaled that it will continue to develop train-launched ICBMs and nukes and China appears to have also realised the benefits of using mobile launchpads instead of fixed silos.
The People’s Liberation Army is reported to have tested a rail-mounted ICBM for the first time in 2015, with a Chinese media article noting the missile train was “a countermove in response to America’s global missile defence system and C-PGS (prompt global strike) program” of hypersonic missiles.
Observers believe that China’s DF-41 solid-fuelled ICBM, which is now hauled around the country on road transports and is capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads to a range of 15,000 km, is likely to be adapted to a rail platform in the near future.
It is probably no coincidence that Beijing continues to splurge hundreds of billions of dollars to extend heavy high-speed rail lines out to its vast western provinces, where many of the PLA’s ICBM and nuclear assets are located. A new line linking the southwestern city of Xian and Chengdu in Sichuan province was inaugurated last month.
Source: National Interest “China Could Merge High Speed Rail and Nuclear Missiles Into the Ultimate Weapon”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
SCMP says in its report “Thailand pushes for high-speed rail link with China to be used for freight” that China’s Belt and Road project of high-speed rail in Thailand has passed environmental assessment and can begin construction, but SCMP stresses the problem to decide whether the railway will be used for passenger service or freight.
SCMP says, “Thailand will own the project and be responsible for financing its construction, while China will design it and provide engineers, track systems and equipment.”
On October 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused China’s Belt and Road initiative, alleging that China’s financing mechanisms “result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt.”
The Thai rail project proves that China does not force its financing mechanisms on others in order to control them. China is happy if others can finance the project and willing to make the project profitable according to the host countries’ decisions.
SCMP makes clear in the report that the debates about the use of the high-speed rail for passengers or freight are Thailand’s. China is requested to minimize the cost and maximize the profit of the project. It will certainly do its best to achieve that. Otherwise it will set a poor example and cause the failure of its Belt and Road initiative.
Obviously, countries accept China’s Belt and Road projects are not so stupid to accept any financing mechanisms that “result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt.”
Nor is China so stupid to provide loans to others knowing well that the loans obviously cannot be repaid. China pursues win-win cooperation that will benefit both China and its cooperation partners. It will not provide loans obviously unrecoverable unless the projects are vital to its national security.
However, China still will make great efforts to be benefited by such financially risky projects. For example, its projects in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor cost billions of dollars. Financing those projects is risky whether by China or Pakistan, but they are vital to China’s national security as they will provide China with vital alternative connection to the Middle East and Africa. China will utilize the projects to enable China to move its labor-intensive industries to Pakistan to make the country prosperous so as to ensure that the projects are profitable in the long run.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2123006/thailand-pushes-high-speed-rail-link-china-be-used.
Thailand is not along China’s ancient Silk Road so that it is certainly not within China’s Silk Road economic belt.
China’s 21st century maritime Silk Road mainly go through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and seems to have nothing to do with Thailand.
However, China plans to build a high-speed rail linking China with Bangkok through Laos. Construction of the section of the rail in Laos with a cost of $5.95 billion has already begun, but according to SCMP’s report “China seeks green light to get rolling on Thai ‘train to nowhere’” yesterday, the section in Thailand “has been dogged by delays and mistrust on the Thai side”.
Discrimination against overseas Chinese in Thailand is quite serious. The Chinese there was called Jews in the East by Thai King Rama VI (1910-1926). But in spite of the discrimination, overseas Chinese have been prosperous in Thailand. They account for 14% of Thai population but control 80% of Thai listed companies.
They seem assimilated by Thai people but in fact remain Chinese patriots as proved by their enthusiastic investment in China to help China’s reform and opening-up. Since China began reform and opening-up, overseas Chinese investment has accounted for 80% of foreign investment in China, in which Thai overseas Chinese has made the largest contribution. Therefore, it is only natural for China to invest in Thai infrastructures to help develop Thai economy and thus facilitate the growth of overseas Chinese business there. Return kindness with kindness is Chinese tradition.
However, that is not the major goal of China’s efforts there.
I had a post titled “China to Bypass Malacca Straight by a Canal at Kra Isthmus, Thailand” on March 15, 2014 on the benefits to China, Japan and ASEAN if a canal is build across Kra Isthmus, Thailand as an alternative route to that through the Malacca Strait.
It will shorten China and Japan’s trade route to Europe by 1,200km.
The problem is Thailand’s political instability. However, as mentioned above, overseas Chinese accounts for 14% Thai population but controls Thai economy and in addition, 70% Tai people have Chinese blood. When China was poor and weak those who have Chinese blood would not admit their Chinese kinship for fear of discrimination, but when China has grown rich and strong and able to protect overseas Chinese now, those people would be proud to admit their relationship with China. As a result, overseas Chinese and Thai people with Chinese blood will dominate and bring stability to Thai politics. They will make Kra Canal a viable project.
For that purpose, China shall make lots of investment in Tai infrastructures to facilitate development of Thai economy and enable Chinese people to set up and develop their enterprises there. With Chinese support, Thai Chinese will be certain to be the dominant force in Thailand. In fact, 80% of Tai prime ministers in the past were partially Chinese.
The plan so far for the high speed rail in Thailand is for connection between China and Singapore to provide a shortcut for export of goods from Southwest China, but if Kra Canal is built, the rail will link China with the canal to provide an even shorter trade route.
Taking into consideration of the long term benefit of the rail and canal, the $5.2 billion for the first Thai section, $5.95 billion for the section in Laos and the estimated $28 billion for the canal will be very cost-effective long-term investment. There will certainly be difficulties in conducting such large projects in other countries, but for China’s long-term interests, Chinese officials shall make great efforts to overcome the difficulties.
As the projects will also bring much benefit to Thailand, I believe it is certainly possible to overcome the difficulties.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2121540/china-hopes-controversial-thai-railway-will-get-green.
In its report “China to rev up bullet train revolution with world’s fastest service on Shanghai-Beijing line” yesterday, SCMP says that seven pairs of bullet trains linking Beijing and Shanghai will start operating from September 21 at the high speed of 350km/h. The travel between Beijing and Shanghai will thus be shortened from 5 and a half to four hours and 55 minutes.
“By last year there was about 22,000km of high-speed line, or about two-thirds of the world’s total. The central government now plans to boost that to 30,000km by 2020,” SCMP says in the report.
Summary of SCMP’s report by Chan Kai Yee, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2107553/china-rev-bullet-train-revolution-worlds-fastest-service-shanghai.
China and Laos are both committed to a high-speed rail project linking the Chinese southwestern city of Kunming with the Lao capital of Vientiane, officials from both countries said this week, and the project will go ahead despite delays.
The line should eventually stretch through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore, and is part of an ambitious plan for China to develop infrastructure links across Asia, known as the “One Belt, One Road” project.
Vientiane hosted an elaborate ground-breaking ceremony for the $7-billion project in December, but nearly eight months later, construction has yet to begin in Laos.
Work has been delayed because Laos had yet to complete an environmental and social impact study, said a former deputy prime minister, Somsavat Lengsavad.
“The terms are all concluded, they are not changing,” he told Reuters in an interview at the prime minister’s office in Vientiane. “But the Chinese banks are very strict on us fully complying on the environment and social impact study.”
Somsavat ran the steering panel for the project for Laos until he retired early this year, and still maintains close contact with the ministries involved, he said.
Another issue was land allocation around the line, he added, with some land on the route having been snapped up by investors speculating ahead of government purchases.
“There is no work on the ground,” he said. “It is pending the study, and one of the pending problems is land reallocation.”
Reports that the Lao government was renegotiating the terms because it felt Somsavat had struck a deal that favored China were untrue, he said, adding that China would not get rights to develop land along the route.
China will hold a stake of 70 percent in the joint venture project, and Laos the rest, he said. Initial capital would be around $2.1 billion, with Beijing funding Laos’ contribution of $630 million with a loan at interest below 3 percent, he added.
Another reason for delays was that responsibility for the project had changed hands between ministries in China, he said.
But Beijing has also struggled to make progress in Thailand, as negotiating teams have disagreed on financing, cost and land rights.
“We will continue to push forward the construction of this rail project,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian nations this week. “It will bring benefit to people from both countries.”
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
Source: Reuters “China, Laos say rail project to go ahead, pending environment study”
Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
New Shenzhen-Xiamen bullet train links three important economic hubs for first time, as well as making business trips and holidays much easier
The new high-speed railway between Shenzhen and Xiamen opened yesterday, slicing the journey from an area many Hongkongers call home to the southeast coast from 15 hours to just 3-1/2 hours.
The 514km line is also a major breakthrough in connecting the rich, but relatively less accessible area of eastern Guangdong to the rest of the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong and Fujian province.
More than 21.4 million people live in the areas of Chaozhou and Shantou (known collectively as Chaoshan). Many Hongkongers, including Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, hail from the area.
The new train line, with 18 stations, also connects the Pearl River Delta, with a population of 140 million, with Fujian province, with a population of more than 37 million. Guangdong officials said travel from any place in the delta to Fujian would now take less than four hours.
The new line also connects with another high-speed line from Xiamen to Shanghai, linking for the first time the three important economic hubs of the Pearl River Delta, the proposed western Taiwan straits economic zone, and the Yangtze River Delta.
Twenty-six trains will depart from Shenzhen daily to different destinations including Xiamen, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou . Travel time from Shenzhen to Xiamen will be cut from 15 hours to 31/2. Two trains will run daily between Guangzhou and the new Chaoshan station built between Chaozhou and Shantou.
Passengers on the first train to Xiamen said ticket prices were competitive. A one-way first-class ticket from Shenzhen cost 181 yuan (HK$229), while a second-class ticket cost 150.50 yuan, cheaper than a coach service (190 yuan) and flying, which usually costs more than 700 yuan.
Guo Qianxiang, a Chinese medicine practitioner from Guangzhou, said he saved time and money on his trip. “I work in Guangzhou and go back home to Shantou once a month. In the past, it took at least four hours and more then 1,000 yuan by plane, or six hours and 180 yuan by coach. Today, I would only spend 164 yuan and less than three hours for the trip,” he said.
A Fujian tourism bureau official, who was on the train yesterday to promote tourism, said the province was rolling out discounts for hotels in Xiamen in the hope that the new line would bring a 30 per cent rise in the number of tourists from Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.
Authorities have not provided any official estimates on the project’s cost, but mainland media estimate it at 41.7 billion yuan.
“I am looking forward to the opening of the railway. It will save me a lot of money and time on transportation,” said a woman from Zhangzhou city in Fujian, who travels to Hong Kong to shop two or three times a year.
“It costs at least 2,000 yuan to fly to Hong Kong through Shenzhen. Now it only costs about 200 yuan. I will definitely go to Hong Kong more often.”
However, some passengers complained their ears popped due to a sudden change in air pressure as the train sped through tunnels. The journey goes through 71 tunnels and crosses 159 bridges.
“Making phone calls is a big problem on the train,” said a businessman from Wenzhou . “If I can not be reached by mobile for eight hours or even 12 hours, I would miss many important calls from clients.”
Some passengers also complained about insufficient public transport to the new Chaoshan station, which is about 40 minutes drive from both Chaozhou and Shantou cities.
China’s railway network now spans more than 100,000km, including 10,000km of high speed lines, as of Saturday, when several new rail links started operations in addition to the Shenzhen-Xiamen line. These include the Xi’an-Baoji high rail, the Chongqing-Lichuan railway, and others in Guangxi .
Source: SCMP “High-speed rail opens up line of prosperity”
It is really fascinating that there has been so much bad news in China now.
Take transportation for example, on July 12 there was SCMP report “Chinese airports the worst when it comes to delays”. The next day, there was another SCMP report “Chinese airlines to face tough penalties for delays”
One of the reports says, “Last month, only 18.3 per cent of the 22,019 flights departing from the Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) were on time, FlightStats says in its latest report. It says 42 per cent of them saw delays of 45 minutes or more.”
The problem is quite an old one, SCMP says in its report “Angry Travelers Protest Airline Delays in China” on December 12 last year, “Since 2010, the number of passengers flying commercially in China has increased 10%, and the International Air Transport Association predicts that 379 million people will take to the country’s skies by 2014. To deal with the upswing in travelers, manufacturers project that airlines will launch one new plane into China’s skies every other day for the next 20 years.”
The demand was, is and will be huge, but according to the first report, “Mainland experts attribute the problem to excessive military control of the airspace and poor urban planning.”
There has been even graver bad news that Chinese local governments have borrowed excessively and may cause Chinese economy to collapse.
A major part of the money borrowed is for China’s ambitious project to build a nationwide high-speed rail.
There was a serious accident near Wenzhou in 2011 that caused suspension of quite a lot parts of the project, but soon construction resumed.
Then there was the bad news of newly built high-speed rail lacked passengers as their fares are too high to compete with airliners.
All such news is so bad that no wonder a China expert titled his recent post “China’s only good news is bad news from elsewhere”.
However, we shall not fail to see that there is good news in such bad news:
- There is growing demand for transport facilities so that local government’s investment in high-speed rail can be recovered.
- The Chinese government will not loosen control on airspace to help airliners and airports. On the contrary, it will impose harsh punishment to restrict growth of air transportation.
What will be the consequence?
More passengers will choose high-speed rail to help central and local governments recover their investment so that the problems of local governments’ financial problems will to quite a great extent be resolved.
A comparison between air and high-rail travels is quite convincing.
Travel from Beijing to Guangzhou on high-speed rail takes 8 hours and costs 865 yuan while the same travel by air takes 3.25 hours and costs at least 1,350 yuan including tax. It seems a flight is better.
However, if there is a delay of four hours or longer, rail travel is much more comfortable and substantially cheaper.
By restricting airspace and imposing harsh punishment, air fare will keep on rising while there will be constant rise in fuel price.
High-speed rail fare will decrease substantially when the investment has been recovered as the operation costs are much lower compared with airliners.
It is much more comfortable and environment friendly.
Therefore, such news is in fact good news for China that foretells China’s success in resolving local governments’ financial problems and building up its nationwide high-speed rail network.
In short-term, the project helps the steel, building materials and other industries that have been in difficulty due to falling demand.
In the long-run, the network is wholly owned by the government. It will be a cash cow for the government for a long time after the investment has been recovered. If the government needs lots of funds, it can turn parts of the network into listed companies and make a lot of money by issuing shares to the public.
The project shows Chinese leaders wisdom, vision and ability and courage to fight against vested interests.
There are also quite a few other things that indicate their vision and wisdom but some China experts like the one who has published the said post are just unable to see them.
No wonder, they would say, “This organisation ability to stay alive and kicking more than two decades after the Berlin Wall’s collapse – and then the implosion of the Soviet Union, which allegedly signalled the start of a global postcommunist era – has long been a source of intense speculation and fascination.”
Intense speculation? Being ignorant of the cause why China has prospered, they can only rely on speculation.
Is China living on “borrowed time”? Can you borrow 30 years of time of prosperity?
China is lucky that it has had those talented leaders with moral integrity for over 30 years. China’s problem is that its political system cannot guarantee that there will be such leaders in the future.
The above-mentioned post mentioned lots of trouble in the world. Even in areas without such trouble such as the United States and EU, do their leaders have the vision, wisdom and courage and ability to fight against vested interests to carry out any project as ambitious as China’s that will benefit their countries for a long time?
Sources: SCMP “Beijing Capital sinks further in past six months, with just 18pc of flights now departing on time”, “Chinese airlines to face tough penalties for delays” and “Angry Travelers Protest Airline Delays in China”