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Railroad to Silk Road in the 21st Century

Posted July. 14, 2005 02:07,   


Tibet Plateau, the Roof of the World

Even until early 2000, the Tanggula Mountains of the Tibet Plateau was considered as “Territory of God,” inaccessible to human beings.

In the high reaches of Tibet where breathing is difficult, a huge scale railroad construction is underway. Every time the huge machine makes one great, deafening roaring sound, the railroad grows by 40 meters. This is the scene of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad construction site, and this is also the representative project of the West China Development. The railway will span 1,142 kilometers from Geermu in Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Now that the construction is 85 percent complete, when completed in October 2007, this Qinghai-Tibet rail line will connect Tibet to Beijing and Shanghai, which covers the distance of about 4,000 kilometers. The western region, the land of opportunity, is about to unite with the eastern region, which is on the threshold of the ranks of advanced nations, and the birth of a united economic bloc is just around the corner.

The year 2005 is the last year of the first half of the first stage of the West China Development. The Chinese government has actively pushed forward an ambitious plan that aims to increase the living standard in the western area to that of a semi-developed country by the mid-21st century.

Under such circumstances, the western region of China that the Dong-A Ilbo reporters visited was almost like a huge construction site itself.

The newly built roads for the past five years span almost 91,000 kilometers, which is even longer than twice the circumference of the earth. Shopping malls in large cities are packed with people every weekend. The potential of the huge market that had been hidden until a while ago has finally started to become reality.

As the infrastructure and market have been stabilized, large multinational corporations made an end to their observation and started scrambling into the Chinese market. Without securing this unexplored market with a population of 370 million, the bright future of their business will be hard to promise.

U.S. automaker Ford, joining hands with a Chinese company, started producing medium and small sized vehicles at Chongqing, the gate of the west China, since last year. Intel, which advanced into Chengdu last year, plans to produce key electronic parts late this year.

Many high-tech companies as well are furiously competing to secure the ticket for the last train heading west China. In the recent five years, approximately 5,000 multinational technology companies, including Microsoft, Intel, and Sony, have set their feet at the Chengdu High Tech Zone, ten times larger than Yeouido of Seoul.

Based on such power of West China, the new regional economic bloc that unites 10 nations of Central Asia with a population of 240 million is about to emerge at the border around the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region beyond the Takla Makan Desert.

“West China, which had been considered a deserted area for the past 1,000 years, is now rapidly growing as a key base of the economy in the entire Chinese sphere,” according to Lee Yeong-jun, the chief of the Chengdu Trade Office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). As the U.S. laid the groundwork of the realization of “Pax Americana” through developing the west, now China as well is preparing to open the world of “Pax Sinica” through the West China Development.

It can be said that the “New Frontier” of the American West in the past is now making a reappearance in China, the only rival of the U.S. today. In its recently released report early this year, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) of the U.S. warned that the subject that the U.S. should most fear of is not terrorist countries, but China that has been rapidly growing based on the West China Development.