China's High-Speed Rail Diplomacy

Beijing Sets its Sights on the U.S. Market

China's Harmony bullet trains, December 25, 2012. Reuters

A sense of uncertainty hangs over American infrastructure, as the United States muddles through with its aging nuclear plants, careworn bridges, and potholed highways. In past eras, the United States excelled at building major projects; now, it lags behind other countries. That is particularly true in one area: building railroads. Even finding money for maintenance can be a problem. A few hours after a passenger train derailed near Philadelphia on May 12 last year, Congress voted to cut Amtrak funding by $252 million, further starving the nation’s beleaguered carrier.

Today, China dominates the railway market, particularly for high-speed rail systems, which the Chinese are busily exporting to East Asia, Europe, and even the United States. China began to invest heavily in high-speed rail in 2007, seeking to create jobs and to improve the mobility of people and goods in its rapidly growing economy. Between 2008 and 2011, the Chinese government made use of its

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