This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your beautiful website for 10% off at
squarespace.com/Wendover. Imagine a train that took you from Washington,
DC to Dallas, Texas in nine hours… or Paris, France to Athens, Greece in nine hours…
or Adelaide, South Australia to Perth, Western Australia in nine hours. These train trips actually take 44 hours,
44 hours, and 41 hours respectively so the idea of making any of these trips by train
in nine hours seems almost absurd. In China, though, that’s reality. In September, 2018 the country opened up a
brand new high speed rail route with d irect trains from Hong Kong to Beijing. This is about the same distance as DC to Dallas,
Paris to Athens, or Adelaide to Perth and yet these trains make the trip in only 8 hours
and 56 minutes. What makes this even more impressive is that
ten years ago, in 2008, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, China’s high-speed rail
network consisted of this. We’ll have to zoom in because the extent
of the network was one 19 mile-long Maglev train from Shanghai Airport to the outskirts
of Shanghai and a traditional high-speed rail line from Beijing to the coastal city of Tianjin. Today, ten years later, that network has expanded
into this. China has eight times as much high speed track
as France, ten times as much as Japan, twenty times as much as the UK, and five-hundred
times as much as the US. In fact, China has as much high-speed rail
track as the rest of the world combined. It is staggering the amount of progress they
have made in such a short amount of time. Traditionally high speed rail exists in small
countries with rich populations by the likes of Germany, France, and Japan. China is neither of these things. The country is enormous, about the same size
as the US, and is also not rich. While no longer poor, China is definitively
a middle income country. It’s about as rich as Mexico, Thailand,
or Brazil. In fact, despite being the country with the
most high speed rail in the world, China is also the poorest country in the world to have
any high speed rail. Despite the country’s vast size, China’s
huge population makes it very dense especially in the east half. This means that China does have large cities
close enough together where it makes sense to take the train rather than the plane. Trips like Guangzhou to Changsha, a distance
of 350 miles, take an hour by plane or 2 hours and 20 minutes by train. When factoring in the time it takes to check
in, go through security, and board it absolutely makes sense to go by train when traveling
between these two cities even without considering that the high-speed train is cheaper than
flying. High speed rail even makes sense in China
on longer routes where it wouldn’t in other countries. Beijing and Shanghai, for example, are about
650 miles apart. Normally that would be too far for high speed
rail to make sense. Paris and Barcelona, for example, are 500
miles apart—closer than Beijing and Shanghai—but only two high speed trains a day run between
the two cities compared to about 20 flights. Between Beijing and Shanghai, on the other
hand, about 50 flights run per day run compared to 41 trains. Considering the trains carry far more people
each, up to 1,200, trains are therefore the dominant means of transport between these
two cities. There are a few differences between these
two routes. For one, while Beijing-Shanghai by train takes
4 hours and 28 minutes, Paris-Barcelona, despite being a shorter distance, takes a longer 6
hours and 25 minutes. The other factor, though, is about the competition. Europe has an efficient air transport network
dominated by budget airlines that are often far cheaper than trains. You can find tickets for flights between Paris
and Barcelona for as little as $12 while the cheapest Beijing-Shanghai flights go for $74. Air travel within China is also far from efficient. China Southern, China Eastern, and Air China,
the three largest Chinese airlines, arrive on time an average of 67%, 66%, and 63% of
the time respectively. A big reason for this is that there’s just
not enough room in the skies. A majority of China’s airspace is military
controlled meaning that there are just these narrow flight corridors that account for 30%
of airspace where civilian planes can fly. With tons of planes and not much room to fly
planes are frequently delayed by air traffic control to wait for the airspace to clear
up which leads to the abysmal on-time ratings of the country’s airlines. While the Beijing-Shanghai flight takes only
two hours the potential of delays, along with all the other factors that make air travel
slower, help make the train the popular means of transport on this longer route. Other train routes in China, though, make
less sense. For example, in 2014, the new high speed train
line opened between Lanzhou and Urumqi. These two cities are relatively small by China
standards. They both have a population of 3.5 million
and between them are only small towns. They’re also not close—about 1,000 miles
separate them. This project could therefore be compared to
building a high speed train from Denver to Seattle—they’re modestly sized cities
a long way’s apart with nothing big in between. Some people would use it but it wouldn’t
make any financial sense. In China, Lanzhou and Urumqi are not small
cities but there’s really nothing big in between and, at that distance, there’s no
sense not flying. The Lanzhou-Urumqi high speed train takes
11 hours compared to the 2.5 hour flight and the construction cost of that line was $20
billion meaning that, if every seat on every train was filled tickets would still have
to cost $400 each way just to make back the construction cost in 30 years. In reality tickets cost about $80 and trains
are far from full meaning that this rail line is just insanely far from profitable. The ticket revenues from these trains reportedly
don’t even cover the cost of electricity for the line let alone construction and other
operating costs. So why would the Chinese government sink so
much money into something that has no prospects of really ever making money? Well, politics. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang province. While 92% of China’s population is Han Chinese,
the Xinjiang province is primarily Uyghur—one of the minority ethnic groups of China—and
there has been an ongoing fairly strong separatist movement by the Uyghurs from China that has
often turned violent. The central government in Beijing, however,
wants the Xinjiang province to be just as integrated as the rest of the country and
has tried a variety of methods to force this including moving Han Chinese into the region
and the imprisonment of Uyghurs in so-called “reeducation camps.” The high-speed train is just the most recent
tactic to bring Xinjiang closer to Beijing and this is no secret. The central government is fully upfront in
saying that the line was built to promote, as they call it, “ethnic unity.” This isn’t even the first time they’ve
used this tactic of railroad politics. Tibet, a region even better known than Xinjiang
for its independence movement, was the last region in China not to have a railway due
to its small population and intense terrain. The central government still wanted to build
one, though, to bring it closer to the rest of the country and so they did. Trains now run directly from Beijing to Lhasa,
Tibet in 47 hours on the highest elevation rail line in the world. These trains reach an elevation of 16,640
feet—so high that passengers have to use a direct oxygen supply. Even the train to Hong Kong serves the central
government’s goal of further integrating Hong Kong, which is an autonomous special
administrative region, into mainland China. While high-speed trains to Hong Kong certainly
do make a lot more sense than trains to the Xinjiang province, many Hong Kongers have
not greeted the new service kindly as they view it as an encroachment on the autonomy
guaranteed to them by Hong Kong Basic Law. The most controversial part has not been the
fact that there’s a train but rather that the station in Hong Kong includes an area
that is effectively now part of Mainland China since people pass through border controls
before boarding the train in Hong Kong. Just like any country, what having a high-speed,
efficient rail network in China is doing is bringing the country together and making it
stronger even if it’s bringing together people that want to stay apart. No matter their motives, it’s clear that
China is building their high speed rail network more efficiently than any other country. To compare, this is the plan for California’s
high speed rail line from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area. It’s currently in very early phases of construction
and is expected to open by 2029. Of course that means that the time it will
take for the California’s high speed rail network to go from this to this is the same
as the time it took China’s high speed rail network to go from this to this but, the main
thing to look at is cost. This Californian network is expected to cost
$77 billion and is 520 miles long meaning that it will cost $148 million per mile to
build. China, on the other hand, is building their
network at a cost of only $30 million per mile. Of course labor costs are lower in China and
their network crosses more rural areas where land acquisition costs are lower but, what’s
more meaningful is that they’ve turned building high speed rail into almost an assembly line
process where they can mass produce even the most expensive elements like viaducts and
tunnels. In true Chinese fashion, with scale they’re
making high-speed cheaper. The big difference between China and a lot
of the western world, particularly countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
and the UK, is that high speed rail is at the top of the government’s priorities. Unsurprisingly given their government structure,
in many ways, China has placed social benefit, at least by the definition of the central
government, ahead of profitability when developing their high speed rail network. High-speed rail lines just aren’t as profitable
as other means of transport like planes but they are undoubtably better for countries
so you have to consider the social benefit when looking at their overall profitability. For the San Francisco to LA high speed rail
route, for example, one study found that the social benefit derived from lower carbon emissions,
higher worker productivity, and reduced casualties from fewer people on the road would be equivalent
to about $440 million per year. As it turns out, this is almost the exact
amount that the state will have to subsidize the line for it to break even. The China Railway Corporation, a state owned
enterprise, is actually slightly profitable, although it does have huge amounts of debts
and is helped by government subsidies. The benefit to the Chinese people, though,
is huge. The high-speed rail allows those who can’t
afford to live in the most expensive cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to easily
commute from cheaper suburbs by high-speed rail. Thanks to the high-speed rail, there are now
75 million people who can commute to Shanghai in under an hour. It is growing what are already some of the
largest cities and, when it comes to cities, size is strength. These lines connecting the east’s largest
cities are some of the most profitable rail lines in the world and they’re making living
and working in China easier but the question is, when we look back decades from now, whether
the high-speed trains to smaller cities will have made sense. Out of a desire to keep the lines going straight
between the big cities, the stops for smaller cities are often out in the countryside dozens
of miles away from the city core. The high speed station for Hengyang, for example,
a smaller city of only a million, is about a 45 minute drive east of the city center. The hope is that new development will spring
up around the stations but this network structure, even if it saves time on the train, wastes
time before and after which degrades the benefit of high-speed rail. In all, China is really the first country
to have experimented with long-distance, high speed rail through less-dense areas in its
west. In the east, though, these trains are enlarging
the country’s economic power. It’s just one of the many factors speeding
up China’s catch-up with world’s richest countries. Even though China is building these trains
for less and innovating on the construction of high-speed rail, the real reason why China
is so good at building railways is because they have the one thing that almost every
other country lacks—the political will for high-speed trains. Whenever I’m looking to to launch something
new one of the first things I think about is how to present it online. I think about domain names, emails, websites,
and where I always go to do all that is Squarespace. As you probably know by now, Squarespace is
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the show by using that link.

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100 thoughts on “Why China Is so Good at Building Railways”

  1. Its china i mean come do we even think those vaiducts and bridges will last for the next say 20 years?
    It doesn't make sense for the US to even have high speed rail the cities are far apart the people here can afford the air travel

  2. Why is China good at building ANYTHING?

    Because they are THE developing nation that actually spends time fucking developing itself unlike India which doesn't even have the correct form of government it needs.

  3. Chinese railway systems are pretty lowkey too. Sometimes people will go from Beijing to Guangzhou just to treat a friend or family member.

  4. The high-speed railway could transport the army, people used for delivery, make families connect easily. Make the change for economic integration. The video producer has not fully understood these aspects and critiqued with non-sense words. Please bear mind that if there is a road in front of your house, which means granting you way for money and business because it brings people from the rest of the world to visit you.

  5. "Although China is no longer poor with the average income the same as Thailand and Mexico"

    im Thai and should i be proud about this stats? my Chinese buddy think so but my Maxican friend is offended.

    "China is the poorest country to have a high speed rail"

    ……yet, China have the best and the most high speed rail system in the world…..so, is it the rail or the Chinese that didn't get the love in this situation?

  6. When you build transport for public services, you don't (solely) factor it's profitability. They are not privately owned. This is for the social benefits, as well as, as the foundation for future economic development. If you really want to weigh some loss/gain comparison, you should use the potential economic growth for the regions along the rail to compare with the cost of the rail.

  7. this is why western countries are short sighted. They don’t think once you have it what can you do with it. They only think if I build it what is the benefit it can achieve in short term. I will say western countries will decline in slow speed. Does not matter you know what is the problem or not. They can’t change it. It is embedded in the western system. Just like Briext.

  8. @7:45 when you say "bringing together peoples that want to stay apart", I can only think of Brexit, Scotland, N. Ireland, Catalan, Quebec. LOL.

  9. China is good at building railways? Are you kidding? Is this joke? All China is good at is stealing technology from West.

  10. why china is so good at building railways ???
    jangan pernah tanyakan pertanyaan itu ke orang indonesia …
    anda akan menyesaaalll ~~~~

  11. 𝕎𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕒 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕞𝕦𝕟𝕚𝕤𝕥 𝕘𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕟𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕥… 𝔼𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕪𝕥𝕙𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕚𝕤 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕤𝕚𝕓𝕝𝕖!

  12. China is a nation of Chinese. They don't have workers who don't work. In America you see 5 people standing around for every one working at construction projects. In China you work or there will be somebody else with your job. In China no workie no eatie. In America everyone thinks someone is taking advantage of them because of one reason or another, race, sex, fat, ethnicity etc. In China the people don't put up with that shit.

  13. Isn't it funny that still Americans want to think that China is all about hacking and stealing their technology?? LOL

  14. While interesting, the clip did not answer the question it presented. The will and money to build a railway system is not enough to actually do it successfully.

  15. I still remember I took 26hrs by normal train from Kunming to Guangzhou (1800km),but after when have high speed railway it only take 8hrs. Student, children,soldier,disability,and old have 50% off.

  16. 中国人口庞大,有很多人并不是住在一线城市,很多人都是在二线三线城市,相对于飞机场而已,到站停靠的火车和高铁更方便,试想我从北京坐飞机去上海,住在北京的人很方便,但是北京周边的没有机场的二三线就不是那么方便了,而高速铁路弥补了这一点,可以从家门口享受到高速。

  17. It's incredibly smart of them to do this. They build it now while labour costs are still cheap which, if their economy continues to grow at the rate it has, won't be the case in 30 years. They're building future friendly infrastructure which absolutely makes sense when you thing about how oil depletion looms.

  18. and there is me thinking that it was very expense to run planes……and here we have Ryan Air selling tickets at $12……no wonder they go bust lol

  19. so when building a high speed rail line from Lanzhou to Urumqi i do wonder how many smaller towns or cities the HS line had to avoid/go around, how many buildings had to be knocked down to accommodate the rail line obviously reducing the lines top line speeds by building curved sections to avoid the much smaller towns in the path of this HS line.

  20. taiwan is part of China.We have the same culture.we speak the same language.the map which is in this vedio is totally wrong.that makes me very angry.

  21. When someone says that population benefits from a inefficient and money losing endeavour, like the mentioned railways, he should ask himself how the destroying value can benefit anyone? Except from the populist government, of course. Taking value from efficient and spending on inefficient. Would you do the same in your household and still think that you are smart?

  22. Why Taiwan is not in the map shown in the video? Even with such extraordinary project you still call China a poor country. I’d say you just fall to criticism

  23. Politics and vision. China builds railway and infrastructure because it help to connect cities with cities, it would improve the transport, shipping and communication, and eventually it may lead to prosperity to the places with good infrastructure.

  24. Why is China so good at building railways? Because they have 1 worker per tile working on building railways. 😃

  25. If your an American, it's nice to see where your money went from presidents who have been handing trillions to China over previous decades.

  26. Ignore this comment as this is a personal msg for someone

    For michael,
    We can have fun. Tell me what and where you wanna go. You'll never be lonely again. 🧡

  27. LMAO look at this.. This vid just states a truth of how fast Chinese railways are, but still got 1/10 dislikes…what caused that?

  28. Because there is no regulations and it's stated funded. Duh. They don't care about environmental impacts. They have an infinite amount of cheap labor too

  29. You should also count the culture as well, especially in holiday season. Planes just aren't able to transport the millions commuters. It just make more sense to build High speed railway network.
    You haven't seen the old day where people are having hard time travel back in New Year.

  30. I think the other thing with China is that these lines aren't already there. They're trying to build a high speed train system in the UK, and it's just not worth it. Billions of pounds to link London to Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool – yet there's already trains than do that in under 3 hours. If we didn't already have sufficient infrastructure, it'd be a good idea

  31. To the people in the comments arguing over China vs the West and economic development vs human rights, there is a saying:
    “A patriot is not someone who is always loving the government, but someone who is willing to criticize the government for the benefit of the country.”

  32. You know what? You can be ignorant and salty toward China all day and stay that way as long as you want, because the Chinese will not give a shit and will keep develop their country. And guess who will be laughing in ten or twenty years.

  33. Chinese rail way infrastructure projects are notoriously prone to failing spectacularly. It kills, maims or harms many. Let alone the human toll in force labour, corruption of the government and effect of the building on the populations wishes.

  34. What this video fails to point out is most of the workers in China are treated like slaves and they have no workplace safety rules or any worker rules to safeguard them against abuse which is what America had in the late 19th and early 20th century until the US Government and Labor Unions were born in the early 20th century which paved the way for America to have a blue-collar working Middle Class.

    China operates what is called "sweatshops" which means a factory that operates outside of the rules and regulations that should be in place to protect workers against Corporate abuse.

    Typically, sweatshops often have poor working conditions, unfair wages, unreasonable hours, child labor, and a lack of benefits for workers.

    As of October 2018, despite the rapid growth of the Chinese economy in the last few decades, more than 482 million people in China – 36% of the population – live on less than $2 a day. Let that marinate for a moment.

    Thanks to NAFTA (North America (Screw US Workers) Free Trade Agreement, America is slowly inching towards sweatshop status thanks to countries like Sweden who had had companies like IKEA and AAK open operations here who treat American workers like crap.

    I call it the Nordic Whoring of America in which IKEA and AAK have found a sneaky way of keeping wages for American workers in their facilities on US soil very very cheap.

    IKEA opened a plant in a job starved region of Virginia and after getting the local community to pony up more than $12 million in tax breaks and other subsidies (as an inducement for IKEA to locate its factory in this job-starved region of Virginia), it didn’t take long for the company to show its true colors.

    IKEA then hired a union-busting outfit to keep the IAM (International Association of Machinists) from making a run at the employees, they proceeded to drastically slash employee wages and unilaterally modify long-standing work and overtime rules. Needless to say, these measures not only would have been frowned upon by Swedish society, but most of them would’ve been illegal. They would have been in violation of Sweden’s labor laws.

    Now As brutal as the Danville crackdown was, a similar move is occurred at the AAK (AahusKarishamn) oils and fats processing plant, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville plant was formerly owned and operated by Golden Brands, but was sold to the Swedish multinational corporation in July 2011. Despite having had a fairly cooperative relationship with Golden Brands for more than 25 years, once the company changed hands, things turned ugly in a hurry.

    Within months, AAK launched an unprecedented anti-union campaign, one that culminated in—and this is going to sound preposterous—the company circulating a decertification petition, urging the fifty members of Chapter 320 of the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (NCFO/Local 32BJ SEIU) to voluntarily leave their union.

    Now if you think that was arrogant, it was because had management dared circulate a union decertification petition in Sweden, the company’s executives would’ve been strung up by their Buster Browns and pelted with lingenberries. I have been to Sweden and Sweden has some of the toughest labor laws in the world bar none so these companies left Sweden because of that looking for a more tolerable pasture and they found it in the USA.

    How is that for irony!

  35. Indians don't want to work ..they want everything on this ✋…India mei Kuch start karo to BC sab aa jate hai right lekar ….this is the biggest drawback of democracy …it act like a hurdle in the development

  36. It took the US six years to build the transcontinental. Now, it takes a decade to lay one overpass in Fresno that goes nowhere.

    When California had to replace a quarter section of the earthquake damaged San Francisco Bay Bridge, it took 11 years and 13 agencies. 82 years ago, our ancestors built four times the length of that replacement in less than 4 years. In 1936, just one agency oversaw the entire bridge project.

  37. China lol Hey, shut up about your gay little train and tell me what happens when you post a pic of Winnie the Poo on the internet? lol You may have a faster wittle choo choo but America has more bombs, so keep making the toys that go into our happy meals. Thanks.

  38. I don't get how a country's development of its infrastructure can be presented as a negative ? Integration and efforts into making the separatist provinces more familiar or identify with the Chinese identity (Consists of 56 ethnic groups). Stop forcing democracy (Works only when a mass population is educated) onto China, where history, social and sovereign factors impact on so much why a more centralized government is required. If you're out to disintegrate and cause harm to China, you're doing the right way. If you're truly for freedom of speech, relative human rights (compared to western countries), i just beg for you to think of this. Has any transition of power been peaceful and would democracy actually work while respecting the integrity of the country (China)? If you wanna argue how evil the CCP was in the past, well that's the past. Political reforms have been one of the key characteristics of Chinese socialism (the current CCP), it has come a long way and suffered. If you wanna settle a score with someone just because his ancestors did this and that. Well, maybe just maybe, the White folks have lost the plot ever since Renaissance. Cause your 'democracy' and 'freedom' is just ur narrative of a political correctness forced upon other groups regardless of their social, cultural and historical factors.

  39. China builds, but muricunts bomb countries to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia and prop up their Petrodollar fiat currency.

  40. Why? Because the price of the ticket is a small fraction of the real cost. The rest of the cost is paid for by Chinese taxes. For example, if the ticket costs 65, but you pay 465 extra taxes to subsidize the ticket price. That is a false economy. China is very foolish to have spent so much money on these unprofitable high speed trains. The Chinese people will be paying for it for generations.

    Trains are most efficient carrying very heavy loads long distances at a slow speed. Even the most full passenger train car is almost empty weight in comparison. Just ask any automotive engineer with any heavy industry background. These kinds of high speed trains are foolish nonsense economically.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_subsidies "Rail subsidies are largest in China ($130 billion) and Europe (€73 billion), while the United States has relatively small subsidies for passenger rail with freight not subsidized."

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