High Speed Double Standards

A story about China’s new high speed rail line popped up in my custom NPR podcast feed today. As I washed dishes and listened to the snippet, I noticed a surprising double standard develop in the story.

The Chinese built a train that travels from Beijing to Shanghai (820 miles) in 48 minutes. If that were a train in the U.S., according to the NPR report, that same trip would consume almost seventeen hours of your day.

Putting aside the notion that such an efficient project could be implemented faster than scheduled here—the story schools the Chinese for debt and poor management, in a tone that’s rarely shown toward our failed Chinese debt-funded projects.

Host Lousia Lim: However, this project was plagued with corruption, with railway’s minister Liu Zhijun sacked for disciplinary violations, amid rumors about numerous mistresses.

During the construction of this track, $121 million disappeared. Then there’s the debt problem. The debt-to-asset ratio is almost 60 percent, and some believe the money from fares will never be enough to repay those loans.

I get that she’s “just reporting the story.” But our politicians rack up debt and affairs like it’s their only job and what do we have to show for it?