FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Major Shakeup in Chinese Rail

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:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 23, 2019
Peter Belmont
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail