When the Chinese New Year kicked off across China several weeks ago, millions of Chinese citizens hit the road in what is often described as one of the world’s great annual migrations.
The pilgrimage allows families to reunite, and also gives the government a chance to show off its spectacular investments in high-speed bullet trains. High-speed rail isn’t just a fast and convenient way to travel long distances while reducing carbon emissions – it’s fundamentally changing economic integration around China.
Today, China’s rail system transports twice as many passengers as Chinese airlines, and officials hope to lay an additional 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of track by 2020 – the equivalent of building America’s first transcontinental rail route five times over.
This infrastructure investment generates enormous economic spinoffs. The coastal city of Guangzhou – the capital of rapidly growing Guangdong province – is expected to see an increase of GDP of more than half a trillion dollars by 2030, facilitated, in part, by high-speed rail. An analysis by the World Bank found that when linked to other cities by high-speed rail, business productivity rose by 10%.