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China, ROK close in on Japan in high-speed railway industry

  • July 27, 2017
  • , Mainichi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

Asian nations are fiercely competing for a leadership position in the high-speed railway industry. China and South Korea are introducing originally developed railway cars one after another and closing the gap with Japan, which is the leader in this technology. The rise of the two countries represents a threat to Japan as it pushes for infrastructure exports centering on railways.


On June 26, China’s next generation high-speed train Fuxing launched a new domestic service. Lu Dongfu, general manager of China Railway Corp., a government-owned company which led the train’s development, says, “Our high-speed railway technology is already among the world’s leaders.”


According to Chinese media reports, Fuxing creates less wind resistance and makes less noise than Hexiehao, currently the mainstay high-speed train in China. It also boasts top speeds of more than 400 km per hour and is cost effective as it has a design life of 30 years, which is 10 years longer than that of Hexiehao.


Hexiehao was developed based on Japanese and German technology. But a China Railway Corp. official says, “Both Fuxing’s software and hardware were originally designed.” After the debut on the moneymaking Beijing-Shanghai line, Fuxing will gradually expand its service nationwide. But China is also considering exporting its new high-speed train.


Chinese financial media China Business News wrote, “Fuxing rail cars will be the highlight of high-speed rail exports.” Also, the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper anticipated that the establishment of original technology for high speed rail cars will enable car designs that meet the needs of each country and accelerate the development of overseas markets.


China is chalking up a track record in railway exports, such as winning a contract to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway by outdoing Japan. Affordable rail car prices and national support including financial assistance have underpinned China’s competitiveness. China will without a doubt take advantage of the birth of the Fuxing to make a stronger appeal from a technological aspect.


South Korea, which began commercially operating high-speed railways within the country in 2004, initially relied on technical transfers from France. But in recent years, it has been introducing originally developed rail cars in succession for domestic services. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, the development plan of the “HEMU-430X”, South Korea’s next generation train designed for speeds up to 430 km per hour, is in the final stages and will be officially exported in the future.


Global demand is the driving force behind the focus on rail car development. Emerging nations that continue to achieve high economic growth, as well as the U.S., which has vast territory, are planning to build high-speed railway systems. The scale of the high-speed rail business is large as it involves not only rail cars but also operating systems and maintenance, raising expectations that the business will become a main focus of infrastructure exports.


The Japanese government has set the goal of Japan Inc. exporting infrastructure packages worth 30 trillion yen by 2020, which is three times the 2010 level, and plans to generate seven trillion yen of that amount through the transportation industry. The Shinkansen bullet train, which boasts the world’s highest technology, is a major advantage to Japan. But it is unclear how long Japan can maintain its competitive edge with China and South Korea rapidly catching up.


The plan to build a high-speed rail link between the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore symbolizes the fierce competition. Japan, China, and South Korea are competing to win this contract, and relevant ministers from the three countries are visiting Malaysia and holding seminars, intensifying their marketing competition.


The requirement level for high-speed railways is high as they form the foundation for supporting local economies. A Japanese government source says, “Comprehensive strength that includes technology, pricing, and financial support will be the key” to winning the competition.

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