Tuesday, September 27, 2011

China's High-Speed Rail - Progress or Propaganda?

From the People's Republic of Chairman Mao to the current capitalist economic powerhouse, China has seemingly been a lesson in turnarounds.  The latest example of progress is the high-speed rail network that has been constructed at a breakneck pace to show the world how progressive and modern China is.

The reality is much less impressive.  Since the deadly crash on the new rail line in July that killed 40 people that progress is being exposed as an exercise in corruption and incompetence.  In a recent NPR report it was revealed that the blame for the crash keeps shifting, looking more like a political issue than a real investigation of the cause. 

Shoddy workmanship, substandard materials and poor engineering have led to the system slowdown from what promised to be 217mph trains are now limited to 186mph for safety reasons.  Worse still are indications that corners were cut to cash in on profits from construction across the system.  One example was the new terminal building at Nanjing.  The huge glass encased station developed leaks in the roof that resulted in parts of the building to sink into the ground. Outside the entire newly paved square had to be reconstructed due to shoddy materials.

Anyone who has bought goods manufactured in China has undoubtedly been aware of the quality control problems faced in a country where capitalism seems to have run amok.  Though the new high-speed rail system was intended to be a showcase for Chinese engineering and progress, it is tainted with the same cache as anything labeled "made in China". That label translates to, "let the buyer beware" in many cases and it seems from the smallest cheaply made Walmart products to the biggest projects in China, the problems of quality will persist.  God help Chinese astronauts in the future!

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