Anyone who has ever whiled away a few hours in a Chinese traffic jam can attest to the country’s need to invest in trains. Due to a simple lack of capacity, China’s rail passenger volumes grew at a compound annual rate of just more than 5 per cent between 2001 and 2010. That is well below real gross domestic product, at 11 per cent, and nowhere near air passenger volumes, at 15 per cent.
任何一个曾经在中国的交通大堵塞中耗费了几个小时的人都会认为, 中国需要投资建设铁路. 由于缺乏运载量, 中国的铁路乘客量在2001年至2010年期间的复合增长率仅仅为5%多一点. 这与远低于该国GDP每年11%的增速和航空乘客量15%的增速.
The problem is in the speed of investment now, as China attempts to catch up by building the world’s largest high-speed rail network. This is basically a good idea: not only does it lubricate economic activity, it frees the existing infrastructure to carry more cargo (at the moment, four-fifths of freight goes by road and canal). But last weekend’s fatal collision, and the regular power outages on the new Beijing-Shanghai line, demonstrate that developers are cutting corners. China laid its first HSR track in 2007; by March this year, it had 4,576km in operation. By 2020, it is proposing to build about 25,000km more. (The earth’s circumference is 40,000km).
如今, 正当中国试图加快建造世界最大的高速铁路网的进度时, 问题却出现在铁路投资的速度上. 本来建设铁路是一个很好的方案: 它不仅可以润滑经济活动, 还可以减轻现有基础设施的压力, 承载更多的货物(目前, 五分之四的货物都是通过道路和江河运载). 但是上周末的严重碰撞事故, 加上最新的京沪高铁频发电力中断事故, 表明开发商们有 “偷工减料” 之嫌. 中国于2007年建造第一条高铁轨道; 至今年3月份为止, 全国运营铁轨全长4576千米. 预计到2020年, 中国将会新建25000千米的铁轨. (地球的周长为40000千米)
The incidents should have two effects. First, to slow the pace of the build-out. One of Premier Wen Jiabao’s favourite adjectives, used in connection with China’s unbalanced, investment-led economy, is “unsustainable”. The wreckage in Wenzhou illustrates that graphically. Second, it should threaten China’s plans to export more HSR goods and knowhow. Contrast the country’s already-blemished HSR safety record with that of Japan, without a single fatality or injury after 47 years.
这些高铁事故会带来两方面的影响. 第一, 减缓铁路建造速度. 在谈到中国不平衡的投资拉动型经济时, 中国总理温家宝最喜欢用的形容词之一, 是 “不可持续的”. 温州动车追尾事故留下的残骸正好形象地说明了这一点; 第二, 这会威胁到中国出口更多高铁产品和专有技术的计划. 日本的新干线运行47年没有发生过一起伤亡事故, 而与之相比, 中国高铁的安全问题却一再出现.
While bullet-train operator JR Central has been among the Nikkei’s top risers since the weekend, two of the three heaviest fallers in Shanghai were the state-owned trainmakers CSR and China CNR. China’s domestic airlines have enjoyed a commensurate rise, as they will benefit from substitution effects. As importantly, though, they have few ambitions to compete overseas. For the trainmakers, for whom non-Chinese sales are still a tiny share of revenue, this setback could be terminal.