Not two weeks after Japan said it would seek to export its high-speed rail expertise to the United States, China has indicated that it is making bids on American projects — and striking deals to exchange trains and tech for investment.
What makes China’s move any different? Size. China leads the world in high-speed rail, by a longshot.
In a new Washington Post report, Keith Richburg details China’s near-silent push in the industry. Once the playground of Japan and France, high-speed rail is now a primary target of China’s lofty manufacturing ambitions, he writes — and the country is quite literally on the fast track.
There’s a lot of firepower behind the effort. Already, China’s trains are the world’s fastest, tracks the world’s longest and, by 2012 — four years after its first high-speed train rolled out of the station — China will have more high-speed rail laid down than the rest of the world combined.
How’s that for scale?
According to the report, China’s making infrastructure moves the way the U.S. did in the 1950s. One company making deals with them is General Electric, which signed a deal last year (.pdf) to invest in China’s rail expansion in exchange for using the nation’s trains and technology as leverage in its bid on high-speed rail projects in the U.S.
In that release, GE stated:
More than $13 billion will be spent over the next five years to support higher- and high-speed rail infrastructure development in the United States. Over the next three years, China will invest about $300 billion into its railways infrastructure, expanding its network by more than 20,000 kilometers, including 13,000 kilometers of track designed for high-speed trains capable of traveling up to 220 miles per hour.
GE’s goal: be the vendor of choice for domestic high-speed rail.
China’s goal: become the top high-speed train supplier to the world.
It’s not just size that China has at its disposal; it’s also cash. China is offering low-interest financing to be extra competitive, but according to the GE announcement, its deal stipulates that at least 80 percent of locomotive components would be sourced from American suppliers and assembly would take place in the U.S.
Interestingly, the expansion of rail in China has created heated competition between trains and airlines for short-haul flights. Will it do the same in the U.S.?
Images: Bombardier Sifang