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Wednesday, 27 June 2012
China's 'Sky Train’ chugging to Tibet – Its Amazing
You may call it the newest Wonder of the World, because it is awe-inspiring to watch. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which begins operation today, is like an iron dragon soaring on the Roof of the World. It is rightly called the "Sky Train." The 1,142-kilometer railway, which took four years to complete, is the last section of the 1,956-km Qingzang (Qinghai-Tibet) Railway from Xining to Lhasa, respectively the capital of Qinghai and Tibet. The first section, from Xining to Golmud, has been in operation since 1984.
Tickets for the inaugural run, from Beijing to Lhasa, were sold out a couple of hours after they were put for sale on Wednesday. For many people, the trip is one to Wonderland.
It is the world's highest railway. Most parts of the new track from Golmud to Lhasa are located more than 4,000 meters above sea level, with the highest points at 5,072 meters. Construction of the US$5.5 billion railway was difficult because of the formidable challenge of frozen tundra, thin air and environmental protection.
It's nothing short of a miracle that these problems were overcome. Now, Tibet, which sits on the roof of the world, is no longer an isolated Shangri-la. It is integrated into the rest of the world culturally, socially and economically. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 passengers will arrive in Lhasa each day by train equipped with sealed, oxygenated cars manufactured by Canada's Bombardier Inc. Tibet will never be the same with the operation of the Sky Train -- the first railway to one of China's Autonomous Regions.
It goes without saying that the railway will "hugely boost local development and benefit the local people," as Beijing claims, but it is also true that this strategically-situated region on mainland China's southwest border will come under closer and tighter control of Beijing. More Han people outside Tibet will move to the region dominated for centuries by Tibetans who had enjoyed de facto independence before its "liberation" in 1950 by Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army.
"Sky Train" is not an ordinary railway. It is going to bring changes in Tibet that will benefit indigenous Tibetans. Beijing's influence over the region and its neighboring areas, including India, Nepal and Bhutan, will increase. India, in particular, could become a closer ally of China in a new world order following the rise of China and India.
Mainland China's infrastructure buildup in the past two decades is stunning. It took only four years to build the Sky Train, the new wonder of the world. Or look at the Three Georges Dam, which is bound to become another wonder on this planet. Or the 32.5 kilometer Donghai bridge near Shanghai, the world's longest sea-crossing bridge. New York Times' Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof has noted that the crane is everywhere in China and it has become the country's "national bird."
Here in Taiwan, there has been no significant construction project since the completion of the 10 Major Projects more than 20 years ago. Except, of course, the just-dedicated 12.9 km Snow Mountain Tunnel, which took 15 years to build. The situation in Taiwan today seems like the mainland's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, while the mainland today is similar to Taiwan's in the 1970s when miracles were created one by one. It's sad to note that the situation is now reversed.