China moving ahead with Trans African Rail Line, New Silk Road part of Global Land Bridge Vision

[Global Construction Review] Earlier this year, the Chinese Railway Authority announced that it was to expand its present network, which is somewhere north of 11,000km, by almost 7,000km. This comprises 48 projects and investments in rail in the first quarter of this year increased by 9% compared with the first quarter of 2013.

China is working on the high speed rail line to Laos and another to Thailand. This would be part of a grand system that links China with Singapore to the south and, through Myanmar and Bangladesh, to India in the west.

As previously mentioned, China is talking to Russia about a high speed rail line from Moscow to Beijing. China and Russia also agreed to work together on other transport and energy schemes, including the development of heavy helicopters and a very large aircraft to rival Airbus’s A380, the exploration of two natural gas fields, more pipelines, nuclear power plants and the expansion of Russia’s Zarubino port on the Pacific coast, south of Vladivostok.

China is pushing ahead with its Development Bank. The US is opposed to it. China is trying to get South Korea and Australia to sign on. Trade between South Korea and China was $221 billion in 2011. Currently, China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and South Korea is China’s third largest.

The new silk ‘road’

Even more ambitious, politically and symbolically, is a proposed 6,000km high-speed route from its western borders that would follow the ancient silk route through central Asia before turning south into Iran and running west through Turkey and Bulgaria to western Europe.

Chinese media have been enthusing over the scale of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” concept. It would involve more than 40 Asian and European countries and would knit together regions with a combined population of 3 billion. As well as restoring the glory of an ancient trade network that affirmed the prestige of the Middle Kingdom, it would have a very practical use – China could ship its manufactured goods to the West in 15-20 days, rather than the 35-45 it presently takes by sea.

Chinese president Xi Jinping first floated the idea last year, but momentum began to build in July, when China invited nearly 100 representatives from 11 countries to Beijing to probe the possibilities.

Chinese media reported one expert who said the line would cost $150 billion and be complete by 2030, but that a host of factors, including geopolitics and the need to get all countries to agree to use the standard gauge, would present challenges.

Trans Africa Line

China is about to lay track for a shorter and faster version of the Cape-to-Cairo rail line that imperialist planners such as Cecil Rhodes proposed as a way of uniting Britain’s colonial possessions. China’s version will begin with a line that runs from Ethiopia and South Sudan to the Great Lake states in the south.

Ultimately this may be united with the 1,344km Benguela railway linking Angola’s Atlantic port of Lobito to the eastern border town of Luau, which CRCC completed in August, at a cost of $1.8bn. If the two systems are joined, they will provide the means of opening up the vast, and largely untapped, mineral resources of the Congo Basin, which will be needed to keep China’s economy growing at its present rate of 7%.

World High Speed Rail Land Bridge covering Asia, Europe and Africa

China is likely to work on a high speed rail line in Mexico. It is only 130 miles long and could be completed in 2018. It would be the beginning of a larger network. China is in talks with other South American Countries.

SOURCES – Global Construction Review, New York Times

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