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China shows India way forward

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注册时间: 2011-03-25
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帖子发表于: 星期五 六月 29, 2012 12:18 am    发表主题: China shows India way forward 引用并回复

China shows India way forward

By Urs Schöttli Jun 21 2012
Tags: Op-ed

China shows India way forward
ON THE FAST LANE: There is a world of difference between a journey in the Chinese high-speed train from Nanjing to Beijing and a trip on the Rajdhani between Mumbai and Delhi
While there are still many areas, where dozens of millions of Chinese live in third-world conditions, the bulk of the Chinese population is rapidly joining the aspiring middle class. Within half a generation, the Middle Kingdom has risen fr­om desperate poverty and underdevelopment to a middle-income country. Already, the world has to face the question as to when China will join the selected group of high-income countries. While there may be disputes about when this event will happen, there can be hardly any doubts that China will eventually reach this ambitious goal. It will emulate the success that earlier on had been achieved by its neighbours, Japan and South Korea.

In these days of permanent traffic jams in the big cities and frequent delays caused by inclement weather, it makes sense to switch from planes to trains also for longer journeys. The other day, we took the new high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai. A few years ago, this train journey would have taken 16 to 18 hours, now we reached the metropolis in the Yangtse delta within four-and-a-half hours. No time was lost for commuting to airports. The brand-new railway stations are in the centre of the cities. While there are also security measures in place at Chinese railway stations, the waiting for check-in and security was nothing wh­en compared with the usual procedures at airports.

China is a huge country; around three times the size of India. One of the major goals of the gigantic infrastructure programme of the Chinese government is to massively improve and extend surface transport networks across the country. Unlike in the case of the Indian government, the Chinese authorities stick to their promises, provide the necessary funds and speedily implement plans. There can be no doubt that when it comes to the execution of grand visions and grand projects, China is way ahead of India. It is easy to dismiss this with the argument that China has an authoritarian government, while India is a democracy. The fact is that the Chinese authorities have to deliver because they know that the public will not tolerate endless, empty promises.

The determined and sp­eedy development of infrastructure has two major benefits for the country and its population. First, it is a process of continuous accumulation of assets, a true investment in the future. Airports, highways, harbours are built for the long term. Each new project, wh­ich has been finished, is added to the capital stock of the country. New, even more ambitious undertakings can ma­ke use of the already existing infrastructure. This further accelerates the process of modernisation. Therefore, the already existing huge gap between India and China is getting bigger by the day. Even if India were to finally execute its plans for a massive improvement of its ailing infrastructure, it has scant hope of ever catching up with China.

Furthermore, there is a second, even more important benefit that comes with infrastructure development. It is the rapid modernisation of society, the true exit from a third-world country to a middle-income country, and th­ereby, the important leap towards one day achieving the status of a high-income country. While India, even with its richer cities has not shed the image of a developing country, China has successfully done that. Shanghai and Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen make New York and London look like poor third-world cities. Soon, the Chinese metropolises will rival Tokyo and Frankfurt.

It is not only hardware, the impressive highways and the glittering skylines that support this impression, it is the people themselves, their behaviour and their appearance. There is a world of difference between a journey in the Chinese high-speed train from Nanjing to Beijing and a trip on the Rajdhani between Mumbai and Delhi. It is not only the speed that makes a huge difference, it is the whole environment. The railway stations in India are primitive and dirty, Chinese stations in major cities can rival the swankiest airports in the world. The Indian carriages are badly maintained and shabby, the Chinese trains put the French TGV and the German ICE to shame. The Chinese railway staff is polite and professional. The hostesses accompanying the train are elegant.

Most of all, it is the passengers that make the difference. A journey on Indian rail is a journey back into third- world conditions, while in China, one hardly realises anymore the difference with western Europe or Japan. Journeys on Indian rail are indicative of a nation that seems to have given up the aspiration of entering into the 21st century. In China, however, the whole atmosphere is of a nation that is on the way to great things, a nation that believes in its future and its capacity to improve. Infrastructure, be it roads or trains, is not simply an issue of material progress and prosperity, it serves first and foremost to lift the people out of sloth and shabbiness. It is this that helps a nation leap into prosperity and respectability. As long as India is stuck with its hopelessly outdated infrastructure, this goal remains beyond reach.

(The writer is the Far East correspondent of Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung)
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