The latest progress came during Li’s three-day visit to Britain in mid-June. The two countries released a statement stating that they “agree to promote substantive cooperation on rail, including high-speed rail, in areas including design, engineering, construction, supply, operations and maintenance.
A report by the International Union of Railways says 10 countries or regions around the world have high-speed rail operations and another 10 have begun planning to build networks. By 2025, the number of kilometers of high-speed rail tracks around the world is expected to double.
Industry experts see in China a country that has gone from zero kilometers of track to more than 10,000 kilometers in four years, and is therefore particularly well-positioned in this expanding market.
A sort of “high-speed rail diplomacy” has become an extra arm of the government’s foreign affairs. Li has taken every opportunity to promote China’s high-speed rail technologies during his trips abroad, thus earning the nickname China’s High-Speed Rail Salesman.
On an official visit to Thailand in October, Li inaugurated a high-speed rail exhibition in Bangkok with then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, promoting Chinese technologies as advanced, secure, reliable and cost-competitive. A memorandum of cooperation was signed, though due to Thailand’s political unrest the idea has yet to progress.
During a trade forum in Bucharest, Romania, involving China and central and eastern European countries in November, Li accompanied the leaders of 16 countries on a visit to an exhibition of China’s rail and equipment manufacturing prowess.
Li advertised China’s expertise, building experience and competitive advantages, and said it would be to adapt to each country’s circumstances and meet market demands. During the forum, China, Hungry and Serbia announced a partnership to build a line connecting Budapest and Belgrade. A project in Romania was also announced.
Then in May, Li visited Africa, where he attended the World Economic Forum on Africa, the so-called African Davos, and announced that China and African countries will launch joint research on high-speed rail technology. Cooperation is to start on planning, construction and operations for a network connecting several African capitals.
There are other signs of activity. China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. (CSR), one of the country’s two biggest rail vehicle manufacturers, has reportedly been approached by more than 50 countries, and more than 20, including the United States, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore and Romania, have held in-depth talks with the firm.
China’s high-speed rail projects are not popular everywhere, especially in Asia’s largest democracy, India. The Indian press reported in March that India is not seeking China’s help, and this is not due to safety considerations.
Instead, according to the Indian Express newspaper, India has chosen Japan’s Shinkansen technology. Japan offers a better funding scheme and is willing to establish a joint venture with India to provide financing.
SOURCE – Caixin