NYT reports (via CDT) that China is offering to help California build a high-speed rail network. The Times’ take is that the worm has certainly turned if China is giving California high technology (and capital.) More interesting to me is the historical background of the current Chinese high-speed rail system. The Times gives us this map.
I would guess that some of these lines are being built for political reasons, to tie the country together. I assume there should be plenty of people in a hurry to get from Beijing to Tianjin, but maybe not so many in a hurry to get to Golmud. There is actually a long history of countries in general and China in particular using railways to bind the nation together. Sun Yat-sen had plans for railway expansion that might charitably be called highly ambitious, and were certainly more driven by the goal of protecting national territory than by economics. Mary Burdman explicitly connects China’s current rail expansion plans to Sun’s vision and included maps of other aspects of China’s planned rail system, like the planned regional intercity systems to be built around Shanghai and Beijing. Maybe soon it will be as easy to get from Nanjing to Shanghai as it is to get from Amsterdam to The Hague. Burdman (who is a LaRouchite) also belives that this is the first step in a grand global alliance between China, Russian, India and the U.S. to defeat the British, thus proving that even crazy people can make good historical analogies and provide good maps.
Just for fun, here is my video of the maglev from the airport to Shanghai. It’s the fastest train the the world! And it’s in China!