FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Major Shakeup in Chinese Rail

by EVAN TAYLOR

As the 3,000 person National People’s Congress meets for its annual session and spectacle in Beijing, major shakeups are happening in China’s railway industry. Caixin Online reports on new plans just announced to turn the CCP’s Ministry of Railways into a single, unnamed, state owned enterprise (SOE). All 18 of the Ministry’s bureaus and its three private companies are to be considered assets of the new SOE, and its initial capital will be 1.036 trillion Yuan (167 billion dollars). What does this mean for the continent building project that is China’s railway development? The answer is impossible to tease out, but a few angles need to be examined

Looming largest is the major corruption scandal that hit the Railway Ministry in February 2011, when Minister Liu Zhijun and two top deputies were detained and investigated for “severe violations of discipline.” One of deputies, Luo Jinbao, was put on trial in late December of last year, accused of taking $7.5 million in bribes, cars, and property, as well as illegally owning a (single) shotgun. While the results of the trial have yet to be announced, he will almost certainly be found guilty, and may face execution. Such a penalty was the fate of Shen Chungfu, director of the Chongqing branch of China Mobile. Despite being the head of the world’s largest cell phone company in the world’s largest city, Shen was taken down in the same corruption purge as Luo, put on trial in November 2011, and will be killed within two years.

The trial date for Liu, who had been Minister of Railways since 2003, is unknown. However, it will certainly be high profile event, as Liu was the face of the Chinese rail boom of the 2000’s. While the U.S. was busy waging war, Beijing decided it was about time to cover Eurasia in railroad tracks, and high-speed ones to boot. Since 2008, when China completed its first high-speed line for the Olympics, the Ministry has built 5,809 miles of high-speed track, and more than ten times that amount or regular rail track. Liu also signed deals with a large number of other Eurasian countries to build international rail lines, and since 2011 the German national rail company, Deustche Bahn, has been running everyday overland rail transport between China and Western Europe. Without a doubt, Liu’s Ministry was an empire builder. Do the new plans to turn the ministry into an SOE signal a shift, a purge not only of people but of policy as well?

Finally, it is absolutely critical to question whether new reforms will help lead to better safety and good governance in Chinese rail development. Liu garnered a nickname as Little Leap Liu, as people thought his policies progressed to quickly, breeding corruption and shoddy work. There has been only one major high-speed rail crash, but charges are common that the Ministry cut corners when building so many miles of track so quickly. And as railroads have already become the dominant method of transport for domestic travel in China and are quickly gaining large parts of the market share for international trade, their proper and safe functioning is close to a global imperative. Industry depends on it, as do the 1.3 billion Chinese people and the millions of Kazakhs and Turks and Burmese and others whose countries are working with Beijing on railroad projects. It is not out of the question to call it the new backbone of the global economy. Will changing the Ministry of Railways into an SOE help put an end to shoddy workmanship and corruption? Definitely not. Will it help? Possibly. But regardless, it is a development that needs to be closely followed.

Evan Taylor is a graduate student at American University. For more on the new geopolitics of Eurasia, read his articles in the March and April edition of Z Magazine. He can be reached through his website: www.libyaproject.blogspot.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail