China’s global high-speed rail vision

The deal struck last week allowing China to invest in the UK’s planned high-speed rail scheme (HS2) is just one part of the Asian giant’s bigger strategy of exporting its rail systems to the whole world, a Chinese expert has said.

China is currently in talks with more than 20 countries on high speed rail construction, and these transnational networks will be funded by China and will use Chinese technical standards and technology, Wang Mengshu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told Chinese media last week.

He said that in 2009 China articulated its vision for a global strategic network of three high speed rail lines spanning Eurasia, Central Asia and the rest of Asia, and has already concluded deals with a number of countries including Uzbekistan and Myanmar.

He said China has conducted analysis and planning for the lines, and is now talking to each of the countries involved.

Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang’s talks with his British counterpart David Cameron last week about the UK’s proposed HS2 link was part of the overall strategy, Wang Mengshu told The Beijing News (that article was subsequently translated by state-run People’s Daily).

Wang said that local resources, such as natural gas in Central Asia, could be used to pay for building the rail networks.

In five visits to foreign countries recently Li Keqiang spoke about high speed rail on four occasions, Wang noted, which earned the prime minister the accolade of "super salesman" in some countries’ media.

The Beijing News reported China’s former ambassador to Sweden, Chen Mingming, as saying that many railways in Europe were outdated and in need of upgrading. He said exporting complete high speed rail packages to Europe was an important part of China’s commercial strategy, and while Germany and France are major competitors in rail, "their financing capacity is not as strong as China, and their equipment is more expensive".

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