News / Asia

    Corruption Threatens China's High-Speed Rail Plan

    A laborer works at a high-speed railway viaduct construction site in Hefei, Anhui province, China, Jan. 4, 2011.
    A laborer works at a high-speed railway viaduct construction site in Hefei, Anhui province, China, Jan. 4, 2011.

    China's crackdown on corruption has cast a shadow over the powerful Railways Ministry. Former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun has been fired and there are accusations that more than $100 billion is missing.

    The widening probe into graft has raised calls for the government to reconsider its investment in high-speed railways.

    China boasts some of the fastest trains in the world and has embarked on an ambitious project to link many cities by high-speed trains.

    Modernization

    The $274 billion plan is part of an infrastructure policy costing hundreds of billions of dollars. The government aims to build at least 30,000 kilometers of track over the next few years: nearly half of it for high-speed trains.

    But the new railways minister, Sheng Guangzu, has had to defend the plan from a barrage of criticism.

    Much of it begins with the recent firing of Liu Zhijun, who was the railways minister for eight years. There are accusations that under his administration $121 million was embezzled.

    Other railway officials have been fired and detained for corruption.   

    At least one proposal to slash the high-speed rail project is to be presented to a top advisory group during the annual session of the National People’s Congress this week.

    But the new railways minister says Liu's firing will not affect the plan.

    The World Bank's railways expert Richard Bullock, who works with the government on development projects, says Liu's dismissal is unlikely to derail the modernization plans.

    But he says Liu’s successor has made significant changes.

    "The new minister has put some emphasis on two areas," says Bullock. "They are safety and procurement mechanisms. These are indications in changes of management style."

    If the expansion plan is completed, China will have the second-largest rail infrastructure in the world after the United States. But the railways scandal follows questions about the economics of the high-speed project, much of it funded by loans.

    Railway expansion criticized

    Some critics say the network seems extravagant given China’s vast size and relatively low per capita income. They say to pay back the loans tickets will have to be priced so high they will be out of the reach of most Chinese.

    Even the 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.

    The vast amount of money tied to railway projects, and real estate deals linked to them, has provided ample opportunity for graft.

    That has led to fears over the long-term safety of the tracks and other parts of the network.

    Endemic graft

    Corruption is a significant problem in China, and the communist government has tried to crack down on it. Liu's dismissal is seen as significant as top Communist Party officials are rarely fired for corruption.

    Wang Yukai, an anti-corruption expert at the Chinese Academy of Governance,  says Liu's firing shows the government is no longer turning a blind level to corruption in high office.

    And he says it's important to give the media, Internet, and the public the power to decipher and understand what goes on in government ministries such as the railways. That, he says, is an important way to solve the problem of corruption, which, Wang points out, is very deep in China.

    Past campaigns to weed out corrupt officials have largely been seen to have failed. Premier Wen Jiabao said in his opening speech at the National People’s Congress on Saturday that ridding the country of corruption is a priority, because graft helps foster discontent.

    But Liu's firing could act like a double-edged sword. On one side, it indicates that leaders are showing no favor in the latest clean-up campaign. Yet, on the other, it may reinforce to the public the idea that corruption is rife at all official levels.

    26-year-old rail passenger Meng Qingyi, who works for a steel company, says it's  a good thing the government has fired some one as high-profile as Liu.

    But he hopes the corruption scandal will not derail the high-speed plan because fast trains are important to Chinese like him.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora