China has begun building a high speed rail that will connect Myanmar’s cities. This will cut the journey time from Muse, Shan State, to Yangon to one hour.
“This will be an Asian continental railroad that will connect Kunming and Ruili in Yunnan province with Thailand and Malaysia via Myanmar. Work has already begun on the rail link between Kunming and Ruili, and work is proceeding on the Lu Zen tunnel,” said China’s consul general Wang Zongying.
“We want to connect Southeast Asia with a trans-Asia railroad that will go as far as Indonesia and Singapore, and we look forward to cooperation from the countries concerned,” he told The Myanmar Times. China was devoting great attention to questions of cost, he said.
He told the audience that the train would eventually reach a speed of 350kph, cutting the journey time from Muse to Yangon to an hour.
$100 billion on a Malaysian version of Shenzhen
China is betting that the city of Johor Bahru, bordering Singapore, will eventually become the next Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a 10 million person city across the border from Hong Kong.
Chinese companies have come to Malaysia as growth in many of their home cities is slowing, forcing some of the world’s biggest builders to look abroad to keep erecting the giant residential complexes that sprouted across China during the boom years. They found a prime spot in this special economic zone, three times the size of Singapore, on the southern tip of the Asian mainland.
The scale of the projects is dizzying. Country Garden’s Forest City, on four artificial islands, will house 700,000 people on an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park. It will have office towers, parks, hotels, shopping malls and an international school, all draped with greenery. Construction began in February and about 8,000 apartments have been sold, the company said.
It’s the biggest of about 60 projects in the Iskandar Malaysia zone around Johor Bahru, known as JB, that could add more than half-a-million homes. The influx has contributed to a drop of almost one-third in the value of residential sales in the state last year, with some developers offering discounts of 20 percent or more. Average resale prices per square foot for high-rise flats in JB fell 10 percent last year, according to property consultant CH Williams Talhar and Wong.
A decade ago, Malaysia decided to leverage Singapore’s success by building the Iskandar zone across the causeway that connects the two countries. It was modeled on Shenzhen, the neighbor of Hong Kong that grew from a fishing village to a city of 10 million people in three decades. Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. unveiled a 20-year plan in 2006 that required a total investment of 383 billion ringgit ($87 billion).
Singapore’s high costs and property prices encouraged some companies to relocate to Iskandar, while JB’s shopping malls and amusement parks have become a favorite for day-tripping Singaporeans. In the old city center, young Malaysians hang out in cafes and ice cream parlors on hipster street Jalan Dhoby, where the inflow of new money is refurbishing the colonial-era shophouses.