China (Again) Wants to Help Build California's Railways - But Less Manual Labor This Time

chinese railway workers 1800s image

image: Library of Congress

In an interesting historical cycle, China, whose citizens flocked to the United States and helped build railways across the American west in the 19th century, now wants to export high-speed rail technology to help California reinvigorate its long distance mass transit. But as the New York Times reports, there's a bit more to this:WATCH VIDEO: Planet 100: China Wants to Rail the US
More Nations Want a Piece of the US Action
First of all, the agreements which the Chinese government has signed with the state of California and with General Electric (which the article points out has plenty of experience with diesel trains, but little with high-speed electric ones) are just preliminary. And Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France, and Italy have also expressed desire to partner up with the the California High Speed Rail Authority.

So in some ways, the what's old is new again twist is just a hook to really talk about China's high ambitions to connect Asia both internally and externally with thousands of miles of high speed rail lines. But more on that in a second.

Majority of Components Would Be US Made
Second of all, there's bound to be opposition to such heavy Chinese involvement, as both legitimate concerns about the US manufacturing sector and somewhat simplistic knee-jerk opposition towards all things made in China play a part.

However, the agreement with GE calls for 80% of the train components to come from US suppliers, as well as all final assembly being done domestically. China would supply 20% of the parts, the technological know-how and engineers. Some of which Japan says is little more than its own designs, licensed over the past decade tweaked slightly (and perhaps not enough, but that's another story...).

Which is all to say, right now this all falls into the interesting-pay-attention-to-this category.

proposed eurasian high speed rail map

image: Transport Politic
Eurasian Rail Domination Redux
But back to China's plans for Eurasian rail domination, which Lloyd touched upon recently but are worth bringing up again... Deep on the second page of the NYT piece is this paragraph:
China's long-term vision calls for high-speed rail routes linking Shanghai to Singapore and New Delhi by way of Myanmar, and someday connecting Beijing and Shanghai to Moscow to the northwest and through Tehran to Prague and Berlin, according to a map that Mr. Zheng [of the Chinese rail ministry] keeps on a bookshelf behind his desk. He cautioned that there were no plans to start construction yet outside China.

On those specific plans... China is currently helping build high speed rail routes in Turkey, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia, plus potential partnerships it is investigating in seven other nations, mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

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More on High Speed Trains:
China's High Speed Rail Will Leave US in the Dust
High Speed Trains to Run From Beijing to London
High-Speed Trains Coming to California - Voters Approve Prop 1A
High Speed Rail Finally Coming to the US: Look at the Plans (Video)

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