Politics in Command: China’s High-Speed Rail Revolution

ReleaseTime:2022-03-07 Publisher:Department of Sociology Reading:0


Time: 11 March 2022  (Friday)  1:30-3:30pm  (Beijing Time)

Venue: Room 1127, Block A, Creative Building, Zijingang Campus, Zhejiang University

Language: Chinese

Topic: Politics in Command: China’s High-Speed Rail Revolution

Abstract: This talk explores the factors that propelled the Chinese state to launch its national high-speed railway (HSR) program, namely, to import, digest and absorb foreign advanced technologies, and to research and develop a national brand. The following four questions will be explored. First, why did China’s HSR dream only take-off in the mid-2000s? Second, what were the obstacles to HSR modernization and how were they finally overcome? Third, what political and economic factors, both internal and external, most decisively shaped the revolution of China’s HSR industry? Finally, what do the patterns of railway development tell us about the political economy of industrial development in China? Administrative centralization or concentrating powers to accomplish big things (jizhong liliang bandashi) at the state level facilitated the pursuit of a national Big Leap Forward in railway development (tielu kuayueshi fazhan), and HSR modernization sits at the core of this round of technology leapfrogging. The evolution of China’s railway policy represents in microcosm the origins of a particular type of statecraft aimed at creating national champions capable of solving domestic economic problems and at the same time compete at the international level. 

Lecturer: Karl Yan, Associate Researcher, Department of Sociology, Zhejiang University

Moderator: Angran Li, ZJU100 Young Professor,  Department of Sociology, Zhejiang University

Commentator: Tianbiao Zhu, Professor, Department of Sociology, Zhejiang University