China Leads World In High-Speed Rail Tracks
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Rob Gifford discovered it is opening up central China like never before.
ROB GIFFORD: Ten years ago, Geng Zengmin was a peasant working in a field. Today, he's a pet food salesman travelling at 160 miles per hour on a shiny new train heading west from Shanghai.
GENG ZENGMIN: (Foreign language spoken)
GIFFORD: It's hard to know which is more surprising: that Chinese peasants are becoming pet food salesman, or that a journey that used to take up to 10 hours to the inland city of Hefei can now be completed in two.
(SOUNDBITE OF FACTORY MACHINERY)
GIFFORD: The sound of foreign factories like this one are familiar on the coast, but can now be heard here in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, once known as the Appalachia of China. And quite simply, these factories are here because of the introduction of high-speed rail, says Fan Jiang, the U.S.- educated CEO of AllFine, a company making batteries for electric cars. It's one of many companies moving to inland China. Fan Jiang, too, repeats the modern Chinese mantra.
FAN JIANG: Time is money. So I think the economic value will be huge. You know, in the past, the people has to set factory in Shanghai, but because of the speed, that they could set factory here and deliver the goods in time.
GIFFORD: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
GIFFORD: Back on the train heading West, the pet food salesmen and everyone else are enjoying the ride two hours further inland to Wuhan, a grimy industrial city on the Yangtze River that few Westerners have ever heard of, but which boasts a population of about 10 million people. Of those, about 8,000 are now foreigners, including French people making cars, German people building power plants, and Americans playing ukuleles.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY LITTLE GRASS SHACK IN KEALAKEKUA")
GIFFORD: (Singing) I want to go back to little grass shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii.
GIFFORD: Janie Corum is the president of the Wuhan American Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband Ralph, former teachers who lived nine years in Hawaii, have opened up a Hawaiian-themed restaurant called the Aloha Diner. Wuhan is roughly the same distance from Shanghai as Chicago is from New York, and with that journey now taking just four hours, Janie Corum says the city is being transformed.
JANIE CORUM: There's more traffic because more people are able to afford cars, so you're seeing a lot more consumers that have a vehicle. So I can tell that the income level is going up because of that. We've got subways that are being added here, you know, American companies coming in, Wal-Mart, they're adding more and more stores all the time. And then, of course, now with the high speed rail, it's more accessible.
GIFFORD: Rob Gifford, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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