China’s attempt at a high-speed rail network is fraught with corrupt officials, impossible costs, and deadly safety failures. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wishes America would follow it as a model.
LaHood told The Cable last week: “The Chinese are more successful [in building infrastructure] because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do, 3 million. In a country where only three people make the decision, they can decide where to put their rail line, get the money, and do it. We don’t do it that way in America.”
His comments are stunning. Yes, that’s how Communists do it: A few people make decisions for the country and control the money, land, resources, and workers. And how has that worked out?
“Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow — without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.” That sounds like a direct rebuttal to LaHood, but Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane wrote that back in April 2011.
The Telegraph (U.K.) reported in February that 70 percent of China’s railway projects had been suspended, as its railways ministry attempted to continue deficit financing while facing slow ticket sales. Last year, a deadly train crash brought safety concerns and corruption at the highest levels of the railway to light.
The bottom line is that high-speed rail is like pouring money down a hole. China’s official institutions aren’t known for transparency, but according to the Voice of America, “Even the [Chinese] national research institution, the Academy of Science, reported last year that at current investment and estimated passenger numbers, the trains will never collect enough in fares to repay construction loans.”
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Photo credit: Joe Miller, all rights reserved.