The world’s largest human migration — the annual crush of Chinese traveling home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is this Sunday — is going a little faster this time thanks to a new high-speed rail line.
The Chinese bullet train, which has the world’s fastest average speed, connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior. In a little more than three hours, it travels 664 miles, comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York.
Even more impressive, the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan train is just one of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China. By comparison, the United States hopes to build its first high-speed rail line by 2014, an 84-mile route linking Tampa and Orlando, Fla.
Speaking at that site last month, President Obama warned that the United States was falling behind Asia and Europe in high-speed rail construction and other clean energy industries. “Other countries aren’t waiting,” he said. “They want those jobs. China wants those jobs. Germany wants those jobs. They are going after them hard, making the investments required.”
Indeed, the web of superfast trains promises to make China even more economically competitive, connecting this vast country — roughly the same size as the United States — as never before, much as the building of the Interstate highway system increased productivity and reduced costs in America a half-century ago…
On a recent Wednesday, the 2:50 p.m. bullet train glided smoothly out of Guangzhou’s station and within four minutes was traveling more than 200 miles an hour. Practically every seat on the 14-car train was full of migrants heading home for Chinese New Year…
China’s response to the Great Recession was to invest federal funds in infrastructure capable of moving people as well as commodities. The Bullet Train project was targeted at 2020 in the original plan. When the recession hit, the emergency decision was made to accelerate construction.
Hundreds of thousands of workers got instant jobs. Manufacturers of components – global and domestic – benefitted from the new pace of production. And we’re told by conservative beancounters we should worry more about deficits than jobs or results.