Slow going for Chinese high-speed rail abroad

Business & Technology

Top business and technology news for April 3, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Real estate speculators rush to site of planned new city."

JINHUA, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: A woman running business of banners poses with a support banner for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Yiwu International Trade Centre on November 10, 2016 in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province of China. Businessmen at Yiwu International Trade Centre exported their election banners to foreign countries during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

“There is no case of China exporting high-speed rail that can be described as very successful,” said a spokeswoman for the Beijing-based CRRC Qingdao Sifang, one of the largest train manufacturers in the world. While the rollout of new high-speed rail in China has gone at breakneck speed — the country already has the world’s largest rail network, with 22,000 kilometers (13,700 miles), and is set to expand it by 36 percent in the next three years — major deals abroad have stalled. In 2015, Mexico canceled a plan to bring in Chinese high-speed trains, and in 2016, Indonesia suspended a joint rail project with China worth $5.1 billion. Indonesia recently approved the operational permit for that project, but only after a full year of delays. Another potential deal last year to connect Las Vegas and Los Angeles never made it past the drawing board.

Possible reasons for difficulties overseas, the South China Morning Post reports, include customer base — few countries have China’s density or volume of commuters within and between major cities — and geography, as China has enough land that mountains can usually be avoided — a luxury not available in Southeast Asia, for example.