Joseph Wang, CEO of the North American High Speed Group, tells Heather Carlson at the Rochester Post Bulletin that he was "shocked" that America had no high speed rail system when he moved to the United State in 1991.
Bluestem thinks the bigger shocker here is Wang's claim that the Chinese high-speed rail system was built and operational when he lived in China until 1991.
Carlson reports in Chinese rail leaders to talk high-speed rail in Rochester:
In an interview, Wang said he understands that many Americans are skeptical of high-speed rail. But he said he has seen firsthand the benefit of such projects. Wang was born in Taizhou, China. He worked for China National Technical Import and Export Corp., overseeing construction of massive infrastructure projects financed with foreign dollars. He also did a lot of traveling in China, Japan and Taiwan and saw the impact high-speed rail projects had a region.
"I saw how high-speed rail changed the human beings' lives. How high-speed rail improved the economy and created jobs," he said.
Wang moved to the U.S. in 1991 and became a U.S. citizen. He said he was shocked when he moved to America that there was no high-speed rail. [emphasis added]
That's a charming tale. But Bluestem struggles to understand how Wang could have been shocked at the absence of high-speed rail in the United States when at the time, high-speed rail in the People's Republic of China was only a glimmer in party officials' eyes.
A well-documented Wikipedia entry on High-speed rail in China includes the following timeline:
State planning for China's current high-speed railway network began in the early 1990s. In December 1990, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) submitted a proposal to build a high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai to the National People's Congress. At the time, the Beijing–Shanghai Railway was already at capacity, and the proposal was jointly studied by the Science & Technology Commission, State Planning Commission, State Economic & Trade Commission, and the MOR. In December 1994, the State Council commissioned a feasibility study for the line.
Policy planners debated the necessity and economic viability of high-speed rail service. Supporters argued that high-speed rail would boost future economic growth. Opponents noted that high-speed rail in other countries were expensive and mostly unprofitable. Overcrowding on existing rail lines, they said, could be solved by expanding capacity through higher speed and frequency of service. In 1995, Premier Li Peng announced that preparatory work on the Beijing Shanghai HSR would begin in the 9th Five Year Plan (1996–2000), but construction was not scheduled until the first decade of the 21st century.
According to the entry, high-speed rail was launched in China in 2007. What Wang saw there in 1991 is anyone's guess, but whatever he and Carlson were smoking during that interview, they should learn to share.
The 2007 date is mentioned in Tom Zoellner's une 14, 2016 article in Foreign Affairs, China's High-Speed Rail Diplomacy. It's an interesting read, and includes news of the American regulation ( "a federal mandate that high-speed rail train sets must be manufactured domestically") that shut down the Xpress West proect from Vegas to Southern California. (North American High Speed Rail once claimed to be negotiating to operate that line).
Taiwan's high speed rail line dates from the same year. Time reported in A Brief History of High-Speed Rail that Japan built its first bullet train for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; by 2009, 1,500 miles of high speed rail lines had been built on the island nation. The article noted:
The sobering expense of high-speed train travel has tempered the expectations of even the strongest rail advocates. "It sounds like a lot of money to Americans, but it's really just a start," James P. RePass of the National Corridors Initiative told the Washington Post. Some critics also predict a massive price tag to operate new rail lines, pointing to Amtrak's perennial shortfalls, and a proposed link between Anaheim and Las Vegas (in the home state of Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid) sparked outrage and derision among many Republicans.
In the seven years since, little headway has been made.
There also exists the strong possibility of a political backlash to the idea of Chinese-financed high-speed rail projects. In 2005, fears of growing Chinese influence—stoked by U.S. politicians and pundits—helped doom a bid by CNOOC, a Chinese firm, to acquire the U.S. oil producer Unocal. Today, anti-Chinese sentiment is running even higher than it was then, thanks in no small part the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who regularly berates Washington elites for not taking a tougher line on Beijing. And critics of Chinese involvement in U.S. rail will no doubt exploit public concerns over safety. In 2011, a malfunctioning signal box caused the collision of two Chinese-built high-speed rail trains near the city of Wenzhou, killing 40 and injuring almost 200 more. The Chinese government moved to squelch criticism, even though investigations found that the rail line had been built hastily with substandard materials amid an atmosphere of official corruption.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an arm of the Treasury Department designed to protect the nation from financial threats to its national security, would presumably review any large-scale involvement by Beijing in a critical piece of U.S. infrastructure. But the CFIUS approval process is somewhat opaque, and the committee’s decisions can apparently be swayed by high-priced lobbyists. When asked about their review process, a U.S. Treasury spokesman responded in email that the committee “does not comment on information relating to specific CFIUS cases, including whether or not certain parties have filed notices for review.”
Whatever the case, Bluestem thinks it's safe to bet that Wang, North American High Speed Rail Group's strategic communicator Wend Meadley and the rest of the gang are full capable of building the high speed rail that flourished in China and Taiwan over 25 years ago.
Perhaps they'll offer Mayor Brede a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge next or market vaporware to the DMC.
Photo: Maybe Wang was thinking of "the Asia Express steam locomotive, which operated commercially from 1934 to 1943 in Manchuria could reach 130 km/h (81 mph) and was one of the fastest trains in Asia" (Amtrak's Acela Express on the east coast can reach 150 mph). Photo credits: This photographic image was published before December 31st 1956, or photographed before 1946, under the jurisdiction of the Government of Japan. Thus this photographic image is considered to be public domain according to article 23 of old copyright law of Japan (English translation) and article 2 of supplemental provision of copyright law of Japan.
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