Wang Mengshu, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, in an extensive interview with the Beijing Times, laid out the general strategy of China utilizing its growing expertise in high-speed rail construction to create a World Land-Bridge. It seems that China has forcefully taken up the policy which had been announced over 100 years ago in the U.S. as “girding the globe with tramway of iron” as expressed by Gen. Joshua Owens after the successful completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The dramatic nature of the cultural shifts in the two countries, the U.S. and China, is underlined by the increasing collapse of U.S. infrastructure and the desire of China to become the chief producer of transportation infrastructure for the world. The recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Africa is just the latest example of that policy.
Professor Wang noted four primary directions for the Chinese high-speed rail construction: (1) a Eurasian line with two branches, one going through Kazakhstan and another entering China at the Chinese border from Russia at Manzhouli and proceeding east to Khabarovsk; (2) a Central Asian Line, starting from Urumqi and proceeding through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey, and then on to Germany; (3) a Pan-Asian high-speed rail starting from Kunming and proceeding through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, and arriving at Singapore; and (4) A line going through northeast China and then through Siberia to Chukotka, where it will meet with the planned Bering Strait tunnel to Alaska. There are also discussions with Russia regarding the gauge for a high-speed rail traversing Russian territory. The Chinese wish to build it using the international 1435 mm gauge rather than the wider 1524 mm gauge used by the Russian railroads.
China Testing Maglev System Developed U.S. Scientists
Chinese researchers at the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory of Southwest Jiatong University, led by Dr. Deng Zigang, are developing a maglev train prototype to run inside an evacuated tube, which could potentially reach supersonic speeds, up to 1,800 MPH. The limit to the speed of a maglev system is not the maglev technology itself, but the aerodynamic drag the vehicle encounters at high speeds. The Chinese evacuated tube design lowers the atmospheric pressure inside to 10 times less than normal atmospheric pressure. Dr. Zigan explained to the British newspaper Daily Mail, in an interview published on May 7, that they are developing an evacuated tube system, because in the open air, if the speed of the vehicle exceeds 250 miles per hour, more than 83% of the energy to run the system will “wastefully dissipate in air resistance.”
As the article notes, the concept of evacuated tube superconducting-magnet maglev goes back to the middle of the last century. The original patent for this system, using high energy-flux-density superconducting magnets, was, in fact, granted to two scientists working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, in the mid-1960s. Magnetc levitation transport systems, developed initially in the U.S. and Germany, have only been commercially deployed in Japan and China; indicative of the multi-decade collapse in trans-Atlantic productivity as compared to the Asian thrust in to high-technology applications.
So far, the researchers at the Chinese laboratory have successfully tested their vehicle in a 40-foot diameter closed circular loop. Dr. Zigan noted in his interview, that the advanced maglev system “could be applied to some military or space launch systems.” A concrete design for a maglev space launcher was proposed years ago as the “StarTram” system by American developers, Drs. Jim Powell and Gordon Danby, to dramatically lower the cost of deploying unmanned satellites to Earth orbit.
Overall, the basic difference between the American and Chinese maglev programs is that we destroyed our most promising projects, and the Chinese are building them.
With regard to the first two lines, Wang said, the domestic side is progressing well and the foreign sections are still under consideration. On the Pan-Asian line, construction has begun on a China-Myanmar railway tunnel. The Siberian line is still a matter of negotiations, but Wang indicated clearly that China would be prepared to help finance and build a tunnel under the Bering Strait. Professor Wang indicates the benefit accruing to China in this “going out” policy. First, they can exchange their infrastructure investment for the needed energy resources possessed by many of these countries in lieu of cash payments. In the case of Myanmar, it will be the supply of potash. Second, it provides an outlet for Chinese engineers to play the key role in the surveying, planning, design, and construction of the roads, and allows them to train the personnel in the transit regions. Already now there is a regular train from Zhengzhou which carries exploration equipment and technical personnel destined for Central Europe and other regions of the high-speed rail line. Participating in the Bering Strait project would also give Chinese engineers the experience they would need to build a similar tunnel between Fujian and Taiwan, Wang explains.
See: China Planning Bering Tunnel High-Speed Link
China is considering building a high-speed railway across the Siberia and Bering Strait to Alaska, across Canada to the U.S. In a not so distant future, people can take the train from China to the U.S., according to the Beijing Times, CRI reported Thursday. This would be the longest railway line in the world, almost 3,800 kilometers longer than the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The proposed journey will start from China’s northeast region, across Siberia to the Bering Strait, and run across the Pacific Ocean by undersea tunnel to reach Alaska, from Alaska to Canada, then on to its final destination, the U.S. To cross the Bering Strait will require approximately a 200km undersea tunnel, the technology, which is already in place will also be used on Fujian to Taiwan high-speed railway tunnel. The project will be funded and constructed by China. The details of this project are yet to be finalized.
See 21st Century’s The Pacific Development Corridor: Maglev Through The Bering Strait
If constructed, people traveling to the U.S. from China will have a viable travel alternative to aircraft. With average speed of 350km per hour, passengers will complete the 1,3000km journey and reach the U.S. in less than two days.
Wang Mengshu, railway expert and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, proposed a route going from an unspecified location in north-eastern China, through eastern Siberia, across the Bering Strait dividing American and Russian soil, past Alaska on to Canada and southward to mainland U.S. The project, if undertaken, would be entirely funded by the Chinese government and constructed by Chinese contractors.
It remains unclear if Chinese authorities consulted with Russian, American or Canadian governments about the project as details are reportedly yet to be finalized.
The biggest challenge for the proposed railway construction would be crossing the Bering Strait. The massive undertaking in engineering would require an undersea tunnel at least 200 km in length in some of the coldest waters on Earth, just south of the Arctic Circle.
If constructed, it would be the world’s longest undersea tunnel by far, four times the length of current record-holder the Channel Tunnel connecting France and the United Kingdom.
China has experience with undersea tunnels, notably the 8.7km traffic tunnel connecting Fujian in mainland China to Xiamen Island, which opened in 2010.
See also: EIR’s North Eurasian Infrastructure and The Bering Strait Crossing
Another previously proposed tunnel is the Taiwan Strait tunnel, which is still pending approval from the Taiwanese side. The tunnel would be 122 kilometers in length, would cost an estimated $65-$81 billion, and would connect Taiwan with mainland China as part of the partially completed G3 Beijing-Taipei expressway.
Despite approval by Chinese authorities and widely publicized lobbying for its construction, however, the China-Taiwan tunnel is unlikely to ever be made due to outspoken resistance from Taiwanese authorities, insistent on their continued independence from mainland China.
Since June 2013, Chinese officials have been testing the first intelligent high-speed trains by CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive Co., Ltd. The train features capabilities such as self-test, self-diagnosis and intelligent decision-making intended for safe use in complicated environments. There is no official confirmation, however, if the train would be intended for use in the planned China-U.S. line.
Three major challenges still remain. One is the financing. Although China has proposed establishing an infrastructure investment fund for this purpose, it would also expect capital to come into the fund from other sources. Second, the logistical problems of staffing the various countries along the route with a minimum of delay with regard to customs, inspections, and the like still remains as an issue which must be overcome to extract full advantage from the increase of speed. Third, there are still the geographic and geological impediments along the complex Eurasian route which must be overcome for a high-speed rail line. But Professor Wang is confident that the obstacles can be overcome, and that the ambitious projects will be of benefit for China and the world.
China Announces New Proposals For African High-Speed Rail
In addition to the potential Bering Strait Tunnel link via Russia to the United States, Chinese Academy of Engineering is discussing a worldwide high-speed rail program which includes proposals for building high-speed rail throughout the African continent . This project has received wide coverage, in the U.K. Guardian and Daily Mail, in the U.S. Alaska Dispatch and Anchorage Daily News, and on Russia Today.
China is already planning another 80,000 km of internal high-speed rail by 2020. In Abuja, Nigeria, on May 8, speaking at the World Economic Forum for Africa, Prime Minister Li Keqiang proposed connecting all African capitals by high-speed rail, with financing from China and no political strings attached, according to China Daily. He said that Africa has 23% of the world’s land area but only 7% of its railways, and 13 African countries still have no railways.
Li said China and African countries would jointly launch high-speed railway technology research and development centers while cooperating on railway planning, construction, and operation. China will also help with African highways and airports. China is adding a new $10 billion credit line for Africa, as well as $20 billion already offered, and will also increase the China-Africa Development Fund by $2 billion, to a total of $5 billion. “History and reality make clear to all: China’s development gives opportunity to Africa; Africa develops, and China also benefits,” he said.
The Academy of Engineering’s proposal outlines the high-speed rail lines under discussion. One would run from London via Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev, Moscow, and Kazakhstan, or go by Khabarovsk to enter China at Manzhouli. A second line would start at Urumqi and go through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, and western Europe, to end in Germany. The third line would run from Kunming to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. According to the Beijing Times, Academy rail expert Wang Meng-shu said in an interview published two days ago, that Europe and Central Asia are already negotiating high-speed rail projects, while the Pan-Asian high-speed railway will start construction in June.
China originally proposed its high-speed rail “going out [international]” strategy in 2009, and the Ministry of Railways launched discussions with 10-12 countries the next year. Central Asia remains the biggest challenge in Eurasia. Wang Meng-shu said the line to Germany via Central Asia and Southern Europe was the same as the ancient Silk Road. China’s imports of advanced equipment from Germany, which now go by ship, could arrive in five days if high speed rail is built, he said.
Wang said that China is offering as much capital as it can, technology and equipment for the all lines, but, on principle, all nations along the routes will be involved in operations. China will negotiate trade with each nation in vital resources, such as oil, gas, and minerals in exchange for the rail construction.
Beijing Times also discussed the great challenges involved. Funding is one: the costs would be astronomical, more than China can afford alone. Even with cooperative funding with countries along the route, this remains a challenge. The nations will all also have to cooperate in managing and operating the lines. Then, there is geography: Eurasia’s huge size, the world’s highest mountains, and rivers and lakes, in a complex geological environment.