Can’t we just be China for a day?

Remember that “marvelous” statement by New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, not that long ago?  Well, he just might get his wish.

Last month there was a horrific crash involving two trains in China’s high-speed rail system.  This event has focused attention on China’s system, something Mr. Freidman apparently wishes was in this country.  So, it is worth some time understanding China’s high-speed rail.

We are told that the cause of the crash was the signaling system.  Many say our signaling system is so much more advanced than China’s, that a similar high-speed rail crash could not happen here.  But, what happened in China will happen here, and it has nothing to do with signaling systems.

Construction of the fast-train network was a linchpin of China’s economic stimulus plan to counter the global financial crisis. Led by lending from commercial banks, [China’s] Railways Ministry’s debt burden increased to hundreds of billions of dollars…[emphasis supplied]

Didn’t we have high-speed rail as part of our stimulus?

For the central government, the [Railways] ministry’s woes add to concerns around debt from the stimulus plan…analysts warn that the burden could suck funds away from other fiscal priorities and could saddle China’s state-run banks with bad loans. [emphasis supplied]


Zhao Jian, professor of economics at Beijing Jiaotong University offers this assessment.

Building high-speed rail cannot generate enough cash flow.  Cash flow comes from the number of passengers…They should have built ordinary trains, but instead they built high-speed ones, which doesn’t correspond to market demand. [emphasis supplied]

And, were that not enough, Stephen Green, Standard Chartered economist offers this:

There is no evidence that operating revenues can grow significantly faster than operating costs. Indeed the evidence at present suggests the opposite may be true.

Will we learn from history, or are we condemned to repeat it?

15 replies
  1. TomL
    TomL says:

    China has spent trillions on infrastructure.?High speed trains that nobody rides, highways that nobody drives on and ?cities with apartment buildings and high rise office buildings?that sit empty with no population living there.? They are losing billions every year on the trains and now they are rethinking their infrastucture strategy because its unsustainable. Doesn’t that sound like what zero wants to do with our infrastucture. Wonder where he came up with?the plan.

  2. winnie888
    winnie888 says:

    Sheesh, SOS…China & the U.S. are truly sister countries, now.? Alas, we are the younger sibling following in the elder’s footsteps–making the same mistakes instead of learning from them.? I see this country sliding backward into the primordial ooze instead of forging ahead as it used to.? This is a direct result of who’s in charge.? Truly very sad.

  3. Plainvillian
    Plainvillian says:

    Cars are freedom.? Mass transit limits choice and freedom.? Liberals love subsidized mass transit because liberals encourage dependence and oppose freedom.? Simple.

    • Dimsdale
      Dimsdale says:

      Hmmm.? I wonder if there is a correlation between the number of cars (or cars per capita) in a society and its relative freedom?? I bet there is.? In China and Russia, the people are finally able to get cars (or cars worth a hoot as opposed to Trabants and Yugos), and are buying them up.
      Now why are we? trying to go the other way?

  4. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    NYC, Boston, or any reasonably large city would be in TOTAL gridlock were it not for mass transit. But then, everybody has a great time on I-91 or I-84 during rush hour. LA is also a great example of freedom in transportation.

    • winnie888
      winnie888 says:

      sammy22…mass transit makes sense in densely populated cities with little parking.? LA is a bit more sprawling than Boston or NYC.?? If mass transit were “needed”, wouldn’t it make sense to have it available in isolated, suburban areas where people are heavily dependent on their cars to get to work where the jobs are?? Although, that’s not really an issue anymore.

      If I were to get a job in Hartford and I didn’t want to drive into the city, I would have to take a 20 minute car ride to the nearest commuter lot w/ a bus to the city.? Hartford is 10 minutes from there.? I’d be stupid to take mass transit.? And what happens if there’s an emergency and I have to go home during the day?? I’ve got kids and can’t be held hostage by the transit schedule.? There just isn’t enough demand to justify the cost, in my humble opinion.

  5. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Thanks SOS, I really don’t know that much about China and appreciate knowing more from a sensible person, rather than Tom Friedman, not Tom Freedman.

  6. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    China tried to suppress that train crash in much the same way the MSM tries to suppress bad news for the Dems.?
    Maybe we aren’t so far apart after all….

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