Japan and China conflict for rail projects in Southeast Asia

Published on : Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trains in ChinaMalaysia and Thailand are ready to commence talks about the creation of a 1,500 km high-speed railway.


The project would actually connect the capitals of these two nations thereby improving regional connectivity. If the project kicks off, it would also establish the platform for a great conflict between the infrastructure companies of Japan and China.


The transport minister of Thailand, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told the media that he is hopeful to meet his Malaysian counterpart soon.


He said that Malaysia appears to prefer China slightly more as compared to Japan.


The Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur route comprises a large section of a pan-Asian railway network.


This idea was actually hosted by Mahathir Mohamad who is the former Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1995 at an Association of Southwest Asian Nations summit. The network would run from Singapore to southern Chinese city of Kunming passing through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.


Most of the existing railways of the region are old and not appropriate for high-speed trains, even though modernization work is in progress to improve the mobility of people. Moreover, it would also offer fresh hopes of boosting the regional economy.


Arkhom went on to add that the ASEAN cities would all be connected by means of high-speed rail.


This concept of a rail network is in sync with the Belt and Road initiative of Xi Jinping, the President of China that strives to bring about an economic corridor from Asia to Europe by creating overland as well as maritime routes.


The involvement of China in regional transport networks is gradually on the rise.


A railway line between Vientiane and Kunming is currently under construction. This would help connect with another line that is a high-speed link between Nong Khai that is across the border in Thailand and Bangkok.


But then, Japan is also quite eager to export its shinkansen bullet train technology.


The companies of Japan have already signed one high-speed railway deal in Thailand. Furthermore, they have also signed another one in India. The shinkansen trains have been running in Taiwan since the year 2007. In 2015, Japan, however, lost out to China while the bidding was in process for a high-speed rail project of Indonesia.


China and Japan are presently competing for contracts for the planned Singapore-Kuala Lumpur line.


And, this would actually represent the first cross-border high-speed railway project in Southeast Asia. The governments of Malaysia and Singapore have agreed for the 350 km long railway line that would commence operations within the year 2026, according to Arkhom.


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