China plans multi-continent high-speed railway

China plans multi-continent high-speed railway

China has announced plans to build a network of high-speed rail lines across several continents. Pollution, cost and safety concerns could be major obstacles to implementing the plan.

In China’s latest efforts to demonstrate its technological advancement and ingenuity, the Chinese Academy of Engineering has announced a plan to build a high-speed railway that would take passengers from China to America in just two days. But what complications would this plan have for China, its railway industry, and the world in the long run?

Is Beijing being over-ambitious?

The project would link the world, including an underwater link to the US, for a total of 8,079 miles, with trains travelling at about 217 miles per hour. The line proposes to start in the north-east of China, travelling through Siberia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska and down to Canada before reaching the U.S. Other planned lines link London via Paris, Berlin and Moscow, as well as a second route to Europe along the ancient Silk Road reaching as far as Germany via Iran and Turkey. Another Pan-Asian line would connect China with Singapore via Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. Proposals to include Africa are currently being drawn up.

The link between Russia and Alaska would be the most contentious section, as this gap is four times as long as the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France.

The proposal demonstrates China’s attitude towards the rest of the world, along with a certain sense of technological superiority. There is no confirmation that China has discussed the railway proposal with Russia, the U.S. or Canada.

But while China does have some of the best technology available, recent accidents within China’s own railway system may cast some doubt on this railway’s construction.

Most well-known, a train collision in Wenzhou in July 2011 caused the deaths of 40 people, and injured more than 210. Train accidents have happened more and more frequently in China, especially in recent years as the construction of high-speed railways has multiplied throughout the entire country.

On top of that, China’s railway industry is currently in the red financially, and the successful completion of this plan would require significant loans. Many have already speculated about the amount of money wasted on these huge railway projects, but this will be the biggest one yet.

Serious obstacles stand in way of China’s highspeed railway

In addition to financial and safety concerns, there are also environmental concerns. China has proposed to build this railway to connect the entire world at a time when pollution levels are a regular feature in the media, especially in the western media. Although China has made several attempts to demonstrate its dedication to fighting environmental problems, doubts still linger. Bouts of deadly pollution throughout the country have cast the spotlight on China, and the construction of the railway tunnel between Russia and Alaska will undoubtedly worry environmentalists.

The construction of this railway would also contribute to a shift in geopolitical powers, bringing closer together a world of borders and visa regulations, threatening the idea of a secure nation-state and requiring a whole range of different security measures to be implemented to protect borders.

On top of these plans, China has also just announced plans to build more railway networks throughout Eastern Africa. Although this offers a whole different range of complications and concerns, the project is said to demonstrate mutual-cooperation between China and the East African countries, however, also clearly signifies the ever-increasing presence of China on the African continent.

About Author

Margaux Schreurs

Margaux lives in Beijing and works as an editor at a Beijing-based magazine and website, and writes on a freelance basis for a wide range of publications throughout the world, mainly focusing on East and Southeast Asian current affairs. She is a London School of Economics and Political Science MSc graduate.