Top of page

Trains and Corruption in China

Share this post:

The corruption of government officials in China, as in a number of other countries, is a major concern and attempts to investigate and prosecute instances of corruption can generate a lot of public attention – particularly if a senior official or significant project is the subject of the investigation.  This has been the case with the investigation of the Minister of Railways, Liu Zhijun.

On February 25, 2011, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) published a decision removing Liu from office.  Previously, sometime before February 12, 2011, he had been dismissed as the party chief of the Ministry of Railways, according to Xinhua, a state news agency.  He was reported to have been dismissed for “allegations of severe disciplinary violations,” and has been put under disciplinary investigation by the Communist Party.  He was replaced by Sheng Guangzu, formerly the head of the customs agency, who is also a former Deputy Minister of Railways.

Xinhua did not provide details about Liu’s “severe disciplinary violations.”   The media claims that, among other charges, Liu is alleged to have taken a large amount of bribes related to rail construction projects, including high-speed railway projects, through a Shanxi businesswoman.

One of the reasons that the investigation has received a lot of attention is that the Ministry of Railways has enjoyed considerable privileges compared to most other central government departments and ministries.  In 2008, the Chinese government set up a new “super” Ministry of Transport, which included the old Ministry of Communications and the Civil Aviation Administration, but excluded the Ministry of Railways.  Rail transportation and construction continued to be the purview of the Ministry of Railways.  This ministry has been heavily criticized for its monopoly, low level of efficiency, and corruption.

Inside a high-speed train from Shanghai to Hangzhou (Photo taken by Laney Zhang, January 2011)

Liu’s corruption investigation raises questions about China’s huge investment in high-speed railways, which had been a favorite project of Liu.  According to the Ministry of Railways, by the end of 2010 China had built 2,197 km of rail lines with the top speed of 350 km (about 217 miles) per hour.  The new Minister has said that work to develop the network will continue.

I rode in one of the high-speed trains while visiting China recently.  A one-way trip between Shanghai and Hanghzhou costs CNY131 (about US$20) (first class) or CNY82 (about US$12.50) (second class), and the 169 km (about 105 miles) journey took 45 minutes.  The same trip takes about three hours by ordinary train, which costs CNY29 (about US$4.50).

Update: This was originally published as a guest post by Laney Zhang. The author information has been updated to reflect that Laney is now an In Custodia Legis blogger.

Comments (11)

  1. 关于高铁问题我在“建立现代化公交网络问题”中进行了探讨,愿意和国际上对此问题有兴趣的同好们一起讨论。有关探讨在环球网上发表,网名LiuJunGz.

  2. 现在正在讨论建设从中国中部河南省建设中国中部区域性经济中心城市和中国西北的嘉峪关地区建设西北区域性经济中心城市过程中和建成后建设从这两个区域性经济中心城市到其他区域性中心城市的12条直达高铁问题,欢迎提供宝贵意见。

  3. To the above commenter: it would be helpful if you can also write your comments in English.

  4. 继续讨论的话题是“广州市升格为直辖市以广州为基础直接建设成中国南部的区域性经济中心城市”之后确定建设广州市经广东省境内直达海南省、广西省、、湖南省、江西省、福建省等五省区的五条区域性高铁路线和具体建设问题。也就是说讨论区域性的高铁建设问题,同样希望提供宝贵意见。(至于中文还是英文表达的问题可以直接使用网上的翻译工具翻译,我认为这样也很方便。)

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.