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The Pattern of Railway Development in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

E-tu Zen Sun
Affiliation:
Pennsylvania State University
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Extract

After three-quarters of a century of fluctuating efforts, the development of railways in China remains an unfinished task today. In contrast to industrially more advanced countries, which had built most of their existing lines by the turn of the present century, railway construction is regarded even now as an indispensable part of the economic development of China. Measured by the potential demands of the country the existing railway facilities are small indeed. Recent data indicate that at the end of 1952 the Chinese railway system consisted of some 17,570 miles of tracks, including all lines in operation on the mainland and Hainan but excluding those on Formosa. This means that there is one mile of railway for every 216 square miles of territory (or approximately 463 miles per 100,000 square miles), and that for every 1,000,000 of population there are 39 miles of rail transportation. Small though the figures appear to be, they nevertheless represent an increase over those of a decade ago. In 1942 the estimate was 12,036 miles of railways in all of China, including those in Manchuria and the occupied areas; the ratio was then 274 miles of railroads per 100,000 square miles, and 27 miles per 1,000,000 population. The vast potential development that lies ahead is apparent when we compare the above figures with those for the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Type
Symposium—The Patterns of Railway Development
Copyright
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1955

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References

1 In July, 1951, the mileage in operation was reported to be 16,740 miles. The completion of additional lines totaling at least 831 miles by the end of 1952 brings the higher figure; see Chang, Li, “Railway Construction in China,” Far Eastern Survey, 22 (March 25, 1953), 4: 3738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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In this article “dollars,” “$,” or “CN$” (after 1928) refer to Chinese currency. The American dollar is indicated by “US$.”

In the years covered by the present study there were notable fluctuations in the exchange value of the Chinese currency. The following average official rates in terms of the U.S. dollar will give some indication of the dominant trends: In the early Republican years, US$1 was equal to (old Chinese) $2.40 in 1915, and $1.80 in 1925. In 1935, after the introduction of currency reform and managed exchange rates, it was US$1 to CN$3.3O. During the Japanese war the rates were US$1 to CN$12 in 1939, and to CN$20 from 1942 on. Actually in 1941 the blackmarket rate had already reached US$1 to CN$40, and in private transactions the value of the CN$ continued to plunge downward as inflation sharply spiralled. See the China Year Book for 1916, 1926, 1931Google Scholar. China Handbook 1937–1945. Tamagna, Frank M., Banking and Finance in China (New York, 1942)Google Scholar, passim.

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45 TTKP, 1575: 5. The Shanghai-Nanking suffered from an additional imposition in the early period of its operation in the form of likin levies: the entire line was divided into nine sections, with the likin duties for each section set at 1.5 per cent ad valorem; passing through all nine sections on the railway, therefore, a shipper would have had to pay 13.5 per cent ad valorem on his goods; this drastically reduced the volume of freight for this railway: see Wu, , II, 85.Google Scholar

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48 Ibid., 1587: 5; 1594: 7; 1604: 8.

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51 YCP, 294b.

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63 Chao Kuo-chün, Northeast China (Manchuria) Today, mimeographed volume, M.I.T. Center for International Studies (Cambridge, 1953), 92.

64 Li, 41, gives 200,000 kilometers. The map at the end of the present paper shows the principal railways in China in 1953.

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66 Li, 40, 41.

67 As samples of these “before” and “after” descriptions of regional economic development in relation to the coming of railways, see: I-chiu-wu-ling nien ching-chi lun-wen hsüan (Selected Essays on the Chinese Economy, 1950)Google Scholar, VII (Peking, 1951), 83 (hereafter LWH). Ta-kung-pao, Feb. 2, 1952; Sept. 5, 1952. CDN, April 9, 1953; Oct. 8, 1953; Oct. 16, 1953.

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