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Rail Link from China to Germany :: Silk Road Revived

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Update: China’s Grand Project, The Economist August 5, 2017 p. 49-50.

In 2013, Zhengzhou, a business and logistics center in Central China, became the starting point for rail transport service to Hamburg, Germany and other European ports.  The trip is a 6,436 mile (10,214-kilometer) run taking 15 to 18 days — twice as fast as shipping goods by sea.

China manufactures products for the world.  We all know that.  And it imports tons of materials and mineral resources. Trade connections between China and the major markets of Europe and North America are essential for global economic prosperity.

No one can overlook the importance of railroad infrastructure and the challenges of distance in historical economic advancement. If a country can’t get its goods to a robust marketplace with money, the economy doesn’t grow. Ship, truck and airplane transport are all part of the modern trade and transport equation, but rail is often the cheapest way to ship goods overland.

 

China was slow to build its rail system, but it is now third largest in the world.  During the past few decades, China has made lightening strides to improve its rail networks for passengers and freight. Some analysts believe the extensive new rail infrastructure may have been built too fast, given the problems along the Beijing to Tibet line.

The Mag-Lev rail connecter from Shanghai airport to the city’s terrific subway is a marvel, priced for tourists from the western hemisphere and wealthy Chinese. I also traveled on other Chinese railroads promoted as high speed, which were not.

Why Ship by Rail? Why Now?

Global Shipping Routes by GPS. Map: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/infographic-global-shipping-routes-mapped-using-gps-data/3605

Global Shipping Routes by GPS.
Map: Smart Planet.com

Maritime routes from Central China to Northern Europe go through the Suez Canal, because despite global warming and climate change, shipping on a great circle route over the North Pole isn’t a viable option yet. According to the information graphic, the China to Northern Europe sea route is one of the heaviest travelled routes in the world. It also goes right through pirate zone near the Horn of Africa. The Suez Canal and eastern Mediterranean, last time I checked, have issues of potential instability.

20130802_chinazug_karte

Rail link between China and Germany.
Map: DB Schenker

This land route from China to Northern Europe saves potentially 80 % of the cost compared with air shipments, and it’s about $489 cheaper on average, compared with road transportation. DB Schenker manages the transportation and logistics.

Nicknamed the New Silk Road, the route goes through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Zhengzhou International Inland Port Development Co Ltd is responsible for cooperating with partner rail companies in each country.

Variables affecting international rail transport include:
1) Rail loading gauge — how much weight can be tolerated on given carriers and track.
2) Track gauge — the width between the tracks.

There is broad gauge, standard or international gauge and narrow gauge. Further complicated by an array of different widths for broad gauge.

Loading gauges, couplings, container markings, and much more are encoded by the International Union of Railways, an organization created in 1922 to standardize rail transport industry practices. There are 82 active members including from Europe, Russia, China, Kazakhstan and others. The U.S. is an associate member.

With a route that travels through five or more countries, there are challenges along the route. The railroad containers have to be shifted by crane twice:

  • From Chinese rolling stock to the Russian style broad gauge line at the Kazakhstan-China border at Alashankou, in northeastern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
  • Second transfer to standard gauge at the Polish-Belarusian border.

US Customers

Hewlett Packard was an early customer of the new rail connection. They booked the route for a major shipment of H-P computers manufactured in China destined to ship from Holland across the Atlantic Ocean to the US.

Here is a video of train route that the H-P computers traveled to Rotterdam, including crane transfer of containers from one railway track to a different gauge rail track.

I’m looking forward to the day passenger trains run the route!

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Written by patwa

02/10/2013 at 1:29 am

Age :: Debt and who will take care of Grandma?

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Older Chinese Couple

 

In 2000, 6.8 percent of China’s vast population were age 65 or older.

By 2025, 13.4 percent of China’s population will be age 65 or older.

Source:  Eberstat, N. (2004, Fall) Four Surprises in Global Demography. Orbis 48, 4:673-684.  p. 676

So what does that mean for ordinary people?  China depends on families to look after the health and welfare of its elderly population. The one-child policy has been effective in stabilizing population growth, but the replacement population is skewed to males.

China may need a gender based immigration policy to continue a stable replacement worker population to continue the growth which can support the rapidly aging population through individual care or a national pension scheme.

China will always have a vast population, so that demographic impacts may not be as deep, but widespread.  The political history has been to shift populations around the territory in order to support continued growth, populate empty areas and stimulate development. However, soon China will have a top heavy aged population — and the stereotype that Chinese are long-lived applies here — with many of those elders without family members to care for them.  Some of those sole offspring did not survive or did not reproduce because of the under-representation of females since the one-child policy took effect. Some emigrated.

China will have to revisit the current policy on pensions and health care. This may provide emerging market opportunities for developed nations to provide China with services such as elder care and health care delivery.

And, look out China, under-educated, unskilled American females may be headed your way to pick up prosperous spouses.

Debt

Did you know…..China’s public debt as a percent of GDP  —  16.20 (2008 est.), #101 on the global list. India’s public debt as a percent of GDP — 61.30 (2008 est.) # 23.  The public debt of the United States — 60.80 in relation to GDP (2007 est.) #24 on the list.

Source: CIA (2009). Country Comparison::Public Debt. The World Factbook. Retrieved October 3, 2009 from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2186rank.html

The U.S. was only a notch ahead of India on the amount of public debt as a percentage of GDP in 2008, using data prior to the global economic implosion.

While India and the U.S. will retain their robust populations to continue economic dynamism, by 2050 half of the U.S. population will be middle-aged or older.

India and the U.S. have similar profiles  of public debt in relation to GDP, but working-aged population is projected to diverge.  This will impact U.S. ability to sustain its economic growth pattern in relation to mounting proportion of public debt. If  the U.S. enhances trade partnerships with the more stable and growing economies such as India, the U.S.  economic outcome may improve.

Great-Grandmama may be able to afford a caregiver — a sponsored immigrant from India who speaks excellent English and has nursing training.

Resources: http://www.Kumarafoundation.com

Written by patwa

01/11/2009 at 11:38 pm

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