Sunday, August 20, 2023

China-Russia-Canada-America High-Speed Rail Line

China-Russia-Canada-America High-Speed Rail Line

Last week Professor Wang Mengshu from Beijing Jiaotang University’s tunnel and underground engineering research center revealed that China is considering building a high-speed train that would travel between China and the United States. The rail line is being referred to as the China-Russia-Canada-America line. The train, averaging 350 kilometers per hour throughout the 13,000 km trip, would arrive in the United States from Beijing in less than two days. While Professor Wang Mengshu, also an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, believes the technology exists to build the world’s largest underwater tunnel necessary to complete the line, many question whether the Chinese government supports the proposal or has the funds to complete the project.

Completing the China-Russia-Canada-America line would be an impressive engineering feat.  The line is 3,000 km longer than the Trans-Siberian Railway and the project would require around 200 km of underwater tunnel to cross the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska. The tunnel would be four times the length of the Channel Tunnel. According to Chinese Daily, the technology to build the tunnel already exists and will be used to construct a high-speed railway line between Southeast China and Taiwan.

The Beijing Times published three other international high-speed rail lines China is considering building alongside Professor Wang Menshu’s China-Russia-Canada-America proposal. One of the lines would originate in London and then travel through Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev, and Moscow and then split into two lines. One line would travel through Kazakhstan to China and the other would go through Siberia. Another proposal would have a line start in western China and end in Germany.  The final route would begin in the south-western city of Kunming and end in Singapore.

While Professor Wang does not have the best track record for being credible when talking about proposed projects, it would be interesting to watch the planning progress for the proposal. He mentions dealing with the hurdles of having multiple countries and jurisdictions involved would be one of the hardest parts of making the rail line a reality. The cost, estimated around $200 billion, would also be difficult to overcome. The rail line between Southeast China and Taiwan, which would include the world’s longest underwater tunnel, does not have formal government approval and other large infrastructure projects that do have political backing move very slowly. It will likely take a long time before the China-Russia-Canada-America line is ever completed.

Looks like Italy will announce China's BRI exit this week 

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will meet US President Joe Biden in the White House on Thursday 27 July. One of the topics that will be discussed will be “closer transatlantic coordination regarding the People’s Republic of China”, as the White House specified. Can this meeting be the event where Italy’s adhesion to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) comes to an end?

According to Italian newspaper Repubblica, Meloni will communicate Italy’s decision not to renew the expiring agreement with China to Biden at the meeting. Already in May, Meloni met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and let him know her intentions, which have been publicly known since her elections in September 2022. Moreover, at the end of June, the Italian Prime Minister said that Italy and China can have a sound relationship even without the BRI.

Italy and the Belt and Road Initiative

Italy was, and still is, the first and only G7 country to sign an MoU with China regarding the New Silk Road. The agreement was signed by the government coalition led by Giuseppe Conte in 2019, where current Ministry of Transport Matteo Salvini acted as Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of the Interior. It is planned to expire in March 2024 and Italy needs to make a decision on whether or not to renew it by the end of 2023.

The MoU signed in 2019 did not lead to significant developments when it comes to effective transportation agreements. Not renewing the BRI agreement might therefore not lead to significant changes in terms of project development. Concerning China, a new ambassador was recently appointed in Italy: Jia Guide, the former Chinese ambassador in Peru. The choice of Guide for Italy may not be casual after all. In 2019, while working as an ambassador in Lima, Peru joined the BRI that Italy is planning on leaving.

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