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Opinion

Stimulate vitality of railways to build China’s strength in transportation

(—Third part of the “China in the past decade” series) Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party...
Published July 2, 2022

(—Third part of the “China in the past decade” series) Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has attached great importance to the work on transportation, and issued important instructions on several occasions. In particular, the report of the 19th CPC National Congress proposed building China’s strength in transportation, which lays out methods for developing transportation in the new era.

In October last year, President Xi Jinping pointed out in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the second United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference that generation after generation of Chinese people have worked in the spirit of opening roads through mountains and building bridges over rivers, turning China into a country with vast transportation infrastructure. Today, China is redoubling its efforts to build a country with great strength in transportation. Transportation has become a frontier in China’s modernization drive.

The important instructions of the general secretary fully affirmed the achievements of China’s transportation sector, pointed out the new goal of building China’s strength in transportation, and created a new historical mission for the transportation sector.

Apply the new development philosophy for high-quality development

The railway network has improved substantially in scale and quality over the past decade. Investment in railway fixed assets exceeded 7 trillion yuan, contributing to a mileage increase of 52,000 kilometers. China had 150,000 kilometers of railways in operation by the end of 2021, including 40,000 kilometers of high-speed railways. Railways have covered 81% of Chinese counties, and high-speed railways have covered 93% of cities with a population of 500,000 or more. A well-organized, extensive, multi-level, safe, and efficient railway network has basically taken shape.

Transportation services have also been comprehensively improved over the past decade. China ranks first in the world in passenger turnover, cargo shipment, freight turnover, and transportation density by rail. Its railways have remained safe, and the green and low-carbon advantages have been given full play. Railway passenger transportation services have been upgraded. Fuxing high-speed electric multiple unit (EMU) trains have run through 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government.

Transportation products have become increasingly diverse, and new services, including online ticket purchase, e-tickets, and online seat selection, have been introduced, making it more convenient and comfortable for people to travel and fundamentally resolving difficulties in getting tickets. Freight volume by rail reached 4.774 billion metric tons in 2021, an increase of 22.3% over 2012. The longstanding bottleneck of railway transportation has been effectively addressed, significant progress has been made in turning from highways to railways in freight transportation, and the transportation of key materials such as grain, fertilizer, and thermal coal has been effectively guaranteed.

Railway equipment and technologies have been improved over the past decade. Railway equipment has been upgraded. Fuxing EMU trains have covered different speed levels and adapted to various operating environments, and intelligent EMU trains have achieved automatic driving at 350 kilometers per hour for the first time globally. China ranks among the world’s advanced in terms of railway technology overall, leads the world in technologies for high-speed, plateau, alpine, and heavy-haul railways, and has formed a technological system for high-speed railway construction and equipment manufacturing with independent intellectual property rights.

Innovation-driven development strategy to build a strong China in science and technology

The past decade has seen new progress in railway reform. Government functions and commercial operations have been separated through the railway management system, the industry supervision system has been constantly improved, and notable achievements have been made in transforming relevant government functions and streamlining administration and delegating power. Reform of the railway investment and financing system has been deepened, and the proportion of investment in railways by local governments and private capital has been increasing. China Railway has completed the introduction of corporate systems, and a number of companies, including Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway Co., Ltd., have been listed on the stock market. Important steps have been taken in law-based and market-oriented railway reform.

New prospects have opened up in terms of international cooperation on railway construction in the past 10 years. The China-Laos Railway, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway have been put into operation successively, and the landmark project, the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway, is progressing in an orderly manner. Railway technological equipment has been exported to more than 100 countries and regions, and the whole industrial chain has gone global. More than 150 Chinese railway technological standards have been published in foreign languages. The China-Europe freight trains have reached 185 cities in 23 European countries, a major achievement and highlight of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Going forward, China will uphold a people-centered philosophy, implement the new development philosophy in a sound, accurate, and comprehensive manner, promote high-quality railway development.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Li Bijian

The writer is Consul General of China in Karachi

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