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
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail