China’s 16,000-Mile, 17-Nation Railroad Faces Bumpy Ride

China has a dream of building a 16,000 mile high-speed railway from Beijing to London, passing through 17 countries. But constructing it would prove to be not only a technological feat but a diplomatic one, the Atlantic reports:

A senior consultant on the rail project said that China wants participating countries not to pay in cash, but rather with . That tactic could represent “a sort of neo-imperialism desired by the countries to be colonized,” argues Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic:

Will they regret the selling off of their natural resources in exchange for better transportation offerings? Is this reasonable foreign investment on the part of China, or is it an attempt to take control of the economies of poor countries?

Even if China proves that its resource-exchange plan is mutually beneficial, it will still have to convince European countries that the rail line is economically worthwhile, especially as maritime transport is already so cheap.

China will also need to do some political maneuvering. For one, the railroad-for-resources plan might face outside resistance from places like India, which is wary of its neighbor’s growing economic heft, and from Russia, “which sees resource-rich Central Asia as its sphere of influence,” The Economist reports. Questions of whether China will be able to sign all the countries up “only multiply when it is borne in mind that Tehran is one of the mooted stops.”

March 19, 2010, 12:36 PM
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