China Infrastructure “Firsts” Becoming Daily Events

Some events of the past week illustrate what is becoming the "new normal" for China, but sadly, NOT for most of the rest of the world. Sunday saw China's second west-to-east gas pipeline, the world's longest line, became fully operational, and four new subway lines opened for travel in Beijing. These two events mark the completion of key, but not final, goals in long-term infrastructure development projects begun years or decades ago.

The 5,400 mile (8,704 km) pipeline runs from Huoerguosi, located on the China-Kazakhstan border in northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to Hong Kong, including one trunk line and 8 regional lines. This system will carry natural gas from central Asia to as far afield as Shanghai in east China and Guangzhou and Hong Kong in south China.

The $22.6 billion (142.2 billion yuan) pipeline traverses 15 provincial regions and will benefit about 500 million people, according to the China National Petroleum Corporation. The pipeline's annual natural gas transportation capacity is 30 billion cubic meters.

On the same day, Beijing put four new subway lines into operation, increasing its daily passenger capacity by about 1.5 million to over 9 million. The new lines have brought the number of subway lines in Beijing to 16. From 2013 to 2015, Beijing will put at least one new subway line into operation each year, according to the Beijing Metro Company. By 2020, the total subway length is expected to increase to 1,000 km.

On Thursday, the major central Chinese city of Wuhan began trial service on its first-ever subway route that crosses under the Yangtze river.

The previous day, Wuhan and multiple other central China cities were linked in the world's longest high-speed (185 mph, 300 kph average speed) rail line to Beijing in the North and Guangzhou in the South. This is the second of four planned north-south routes to be completed. There will be an addition four east-west trunks.

It does not take anything away from China's accomplishments to note that these firsts are but the expected outcome of a development program that was actually started and then pursued. Each step of the way "stimulates" the then current economic base, and as that step is completed it provides an expanded, more efficient base for further growth and articulation of the economy.

For those of us who grew up before environmentalism took firm hold in America and the West in general, similar headlines used to be our normal fare. A new highway or bridge, the St. Lawrence Seaway, mechanized ports, rocket shots. There was something new, better almost every week. It became almost routine; then it became rare, and finally almost non-existent. The new normal became new wars. May 2013 be a year to renew our old tradition!

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