Archive for August, 2011

“The danse macabre of US-style democracy” by John Pilger – January 2008 [ / Sweet & Sour Socialism Essential Archives]

Posted in BBC bias, distortions and lies, Bill Clinton, Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, Corporate Media Critique, Fascism, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Historical myths of the US, Iraq, Nazism, Obama, Sweet and Sour Socialism Essential Archives, Tony Blair, U.K., USA, Vietnam on August 31, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

As the hideous charade of the 2012 edition of the quadrennial POTUS elections ratchets up, this essay is notable for Pilger calling Obama at that time an “Uncle Tom”. Turns out he’s exponentially worse than that symbol of servility — Obama is a rare pseudo-democratic politician who is larded with corruption and crimes both domestic and international, destined for infamy like his predecessor. – Zuo Shou

24 January 2008

The former president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere once asked, “Why haven’t we all got a vote in the US election? Surely everyone with a TV set has earned that right just for enduring the merciless bombardment every four years.” Having reported four presidential election campaigns, from the Kennedys to Nixon, Carter to Reagan, with their Zeppelins of platitudes, robotic followers and rictal wives, I can sympathise. But what difference would the vote make? Of the presidential candidates I have interviewed, only George C Wallace, governor of Alabama, spoke the truth. “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans,” he said. And he was shot.

What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullshit, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money, power, human division and a culture of permanent war.

Travelling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a saviour. The words “change” and “hope” were used relentlessly and cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist codes, such as “law and order”. With those opposed to the invasion of Vietnam, he would attack “putting American boys in the line of fire”, but never say when he would withdraw them. That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency. Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. Carter promised a foreign policy based on “human rights” – and practised the very opposite. Reagan’s “freedom agenda” was a bloodbath in central America. Clinton “solemnly pledged” universal health care and tore down the last safety net of the Depression.

Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan [which he since has, one of several countries where Obama has waged war – ZS]. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behaviour, because it is “a city upon a hill”, regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.

If you wonder why this holocaust is not an “issue” in the current campaign, you might ask the BBC, or better still Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America editor. In a Radio 4 series last year, Webb displayed the kind of sycophancy that evokes the 1930s appeaser Geoffrey Dawson, then editor of the Times. Condoleezza Rice cannot be too mendacious for Webb. According to Rice, the US is “supporting the democratic aspirations of all people”. For Webb, who believes American patriotism “creates a feeling of happiness and solidity”, the crimes committed in the name of this patriotism, such as support for war and injustice in the Middle East for the past 25 years, and in Latin America, are irrelevant. Indeed, those who resist such an epic assault on democracy are guilty of “anti-Americanism”, says Webb, apparently unaware of the totalitarian origins of this term of abuse. Journalists in Nazi Berlin would damn critics of the Reich as “anti-German”.

Moreover, his treacle about the “ideals” and “core values” that make up America’s sanctified “set of ideas about human conduct” denies us a true sense of the destruction of American democracy: the dismantling of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus and separation of powers. Here is Webb on the campaign trail: “[This] is not about mass politics. It is a celebration of the one-to-one relationship between an individual American and his or her putative commander-in-chief.” He calls this “dizzying”. And Webb on Bush: “Let us not forget that while the candidates win, lose, win again . . . there is a world to be run and President Bush is still running it.” The emphasis in the BBC text actually links to the White House website.

None of this drivel is journalism. It is anti-journalism, worthy of a minor courtier of a great power. Webb is not exceptional. His boss Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, sent this reply to a viewer who had protested the prevalence of propaganda as the basis of news: “It is simply a fact that Bush has tried to export democracy [to Iraq] and that this has been troublesome.”

And her source for this “fact”? Quotations from Bush and Blair saying it is a fact.

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NATO faces ‘catastrophic success’ in Libya [People’s Daily]

Posted in Afghanistan, France, Iraq, Italy, Libya, NATO, Somalia, U.K., U.K. War Crimes, UNSC, US imperialism, USA, War crimes on August 30, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By An Huihou (Jiefang Daily)
August 30, 2011

Edited and Translated by People’s Daily Online

The Libya war situation recently underwent dramatic changes. French and British defense ministers stressed at the end of July that the Libyan opposition could not defeat the government forces or capture Tripoli, the capital of Libya, on its own. However, certain media outlets revealed in mid-August that the Libyan opposition was expected to capture the capital before the end of August, according to a NATO schedule.

As it turned out, the opposition forces entered Tripoli on Aug. 21. There are two main reasons for the sudden victory of the opposition forces. First, Western countries not only launched air strikes and provided a large amount of weapons to the opposition forces but also sent ground troops to Libya. According to recent media reports, France, the United Kingdom and Italy had dispatched Special Forces to Libya to help the opposition troops finally win the ground war. Second, Western countries reportedly bought over almost all senior officials of the Qaddafi regime. In brief, Western countries planned and directed the opposition forces’ capture of Tripoli.

However, the NATO’s victory in Libya is just a miserable victory. First, in order to reduce civilian casualties, the United Nations Security Council authorized NATO to establish a no-fly zone in Libya. However, the military operations of NATO have enlarged the civil war, led to tens of thousands of casualties of innocent civilians, made countless people homeless, and caused severe property damages and a huge humanitarian disaster.

NATO’s arming of the Libyan Rebels [sic] and use of land forces in Libya both violated the Security Council’s resolution, which prohibited both actions. In order to overthrow the Qadafi’s administration, foster a pro-West government and further control Libya, western countries will use any methods. Fair or foul, they do not care. Therefore, they have already failed in morality and justice.

Second, several of the strongest Western countries joined forces, spent a lot of money and manpower, and bombed Libya for five months, but they ultimately still had to adopt illegal actions and commanded the Libyan Rebels [sic] to take the capital. It could fully reflect the rudeness, brutality and selfishness of the Western countries. In addition, their actions not only failed to demonstrate their powerful strengths but also revealed their weakness, fragility and incapacity.

U.K.-based The Times reported that NATO is generally using the term “catastrophic success” to describe the opposition’s victory. The relationship among various factions of Libya’s opposition is indeed complicated. Although they have made collective actions to achieve the goal of overthrowing Qaddafi’s regime, it is very difficult for them to remain united in the post-Qaddafi era. Instead, they are very likely to divide and even cause new conflicts to arise. Furthermore, it is very difficult for Qaddafi’s tribes to accept the cruel facts, including the losses of their dominant position, authority and interests.

The international community is universally worried that Libya will likely become the second Iraq or Somalia, and some even forecasted that Libya would likely be divided into three parts. The war and the inevitable future chaos caused by war will make the Libyan People the biggest victim and affect the regional and global peace and stability. The Western countries will unlikely obtain the rewards that they are coveting.

Western countries have launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade and have participated in the Libyan war in 2011. Although they have all met the goals of regime changes, have they really achieved victories? The Iraq war waged by the United States is not worth the costs and has become one of the major reasons behind the fall of the United States from its hegemonic position, which is already a consensus in the international community.

The Afghan war has lasted as long as 10 years, putting those who launched the war into a dilemma. The Libyan war is no exception and can never become a model for Western powers’ successful interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The “gunboat diplomacy” era has long passed, and resolving political differences through negotiations has become the trend of the times.

Going against the trend of the times, maintaining blind faith in the use of force, imposing the threat of force and even interfering militarily have not only become increasingly difficult but also do[es] harm to others and themselves. As Western countries have repeatedly failed to take lessons from their blind moves, it is no wonder they [have] embarked on the path of decline.

Edited by Zuo Shou

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Oil tank fire extinguished in northeast China’s Dalian [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Dalian, Environmental protection, Liaoning Province, Special Economic Zones on August 30, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

DALIAN, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — Firefighters have extinguished a diesel oil tank fire that ignited around 10 a.m. in Dalian, a coastal city in northeast Liaoning Province, according to municipal authorities.

The blaze, at a refinery owned by PetroChina, one of the country’s leading oil producers, demanded a force of 296 firefighters and 65 fire trucks, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Public Security.

A blast in the pipeline linking two oil tanks triggered the fire, the statement indicated.

No casualties have been reported, officials said.

The potential existed for a worse fire due to its close proximity to tanks of liquefied petroleum gas, aviation gasoline and other oil tanks.

Firefighters remain on the scene to guard against any further hazard.

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EDITORIAL: “Speak up now – U.S./NATO out of Libya!” [Workers World]

Posted in Afghanistan, Africa, Assassination, Black propaganda, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Cuba, Fascism, France, Iraq, Libya, Mercenaries / "contractors", NATO, Nicaragua, U.K., U.K. War Crimes, US imperialism, USA, War crimes on August 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Published Aug 22, 2011

The NATO powers of Europe and the U.S. are declaring victory after having pounded the small country of Libya for five brutal months. They are claiming that the “rebel” forces they command, whose road to Tripoli was paved by NATO air strikes that knocked out much of Libya’s civil and military capability, now control the capital.

Britain, France, the U.S. and most of the other imperialist bandits have given diplomatic recognition to the grouping they themselves cobbled together. There should be no confusion about who these “democratic” forces are. They are the contras of Nicaragua, the Cuban mercenaries at the Bay of Pigs, and earlier the Manchukuo puppet regime set up by Japan to facilitate its imperialist invasion of China.

After the exposure of all the trickery and outright lying that U.S. governments used to mask their criminal aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no excuse for any progressive person to act confused and stand on the fence. The motives of Washington and Wall Street for this latest aggression are clear and unambiguous.

Just as in Iraq, there is a big economic motive on the part of the small group of politically powerful, transnational companies that control the world’s oil. Libya, with a population of only 6 million people, has the largest oil reserves in Africa. The giant energy companies of Britain, France, Italy and the U.S. have for months been in a ruthless competition over who will get the biggest spoils from this undeclared war. While the front pages may talk about Libya in terms of freedom and democracy, the business sections of the same imperialist newspapers focus on the bottom line: oil profits.

Moreover, the U.S. ruling class sees breaking down Libya as an opening for further penetration into sub-Saharan Africa and implementation of its plans for military domination of the entire continent through Africom – the Pentagon’s new Africa command structure.

However, the Libyan people’s resistance has been heroic. For nearly half a year they have stood up to not only bombs but a blast of propaganda worthy of Hitler’s Joseph Goebbels. Around the world, in every language, the corporate media have depicted the aggressors as angels of mercy, even as they systematically terrorized the people of Libya with nearly 7,500 air strike sorties that have deprived this desert nation of electricity, water, food and fuel. With its oil wealth, Libya has built a modern, largely urban environment. As in Iraq, this raised the people’s quality of life but also left them more vulnerable to the damage that high-explosive bombs can do to a city’s power supply, water pipes and purification plants, roads and ports.

The media are now in a feeding frenzy over who can use the vilest, most racist terms to describe Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whom the West has never forgiven for having supported African freedom struggles and nationalized Libya’s oil. Having personalized the issue – “Gadhafi must go!” – the U.S. government and the servile media are trying to whip up a lynch mob mentality that is supposed to climax with the capture or assassination of Gadhafi – after which their cameras and reporters will go elsewhere while the people’s wealth is partitioned out among the imperialist bandits and their henchmen. That, at any rate, is the scenario.

As this is written, those defending Libya from the new colonialism of NATO are reportedly continuing to fight the “rebels” in Tripoli. Despite all the air cover and the presence of British, French and undoubtedly U.S. special forces on the ground, taking over this city of 2 million people is not a cakewalk. The resistance to imperialism can take many forms, especially among a people who have been armed by the Libyan government.

Anyone who stands for the right of nations to self-determination, who understands the predatory character of the U.S. wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, who believes in people before profits and is for jobs and housing and education, not more billions for the Pentagon, should speak up now against this atrocity being committed in north Africa.

And we should remember that this dirty war is happening when desperate times have come to hundreds of millions of workers all over the world. A prolonged capitalist economic crisis eats away at their livelihoods and safety nets. The imperialist countries whose ruling classes have fattened the most off the resources and labor of the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America must now destroy jobs at home and slash social budgets to guarantee the profits of the billionaires.

Whatever happens in Libya over the next few days and weeks, one thing is clear: It is becoming more and more difficult for the imperialist powers, despite all their death-dealing weaponry, to keep the billions of workers and oppressed people around the world under their iron heel.

This is not the dawn of imperialism, when a few thousand soldiers armed with rifles and field guns could be sent overseas to drown a people’s resistance in blood while finance capital spun its web around the local elites.

This is the age of rotting, moribund imperialism when the profit system is undercutting its own markets, pauperizing workers everywhere in a chase for ever greater profits while production stagnates. It is the age of high-tech war and high-tech production, both of which require enormous capital outlays at the expense of the shrinking class of producers.

In the imperialist countries, all of which are now home to workers of many nationalities, it is an age of awakening internationalism, class solidarity and resistance to the hardships that imperialist war brings to those at home as well as abroad.

U.S. and NATO out of Libya! The struggle to end imperialism and wage slavery continues!

Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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China: A Continent of Stability? (III) [Strategic Culture Foundation]

Posted in Beijing, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, Economy, Russia on August 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Alexander SALITSKI, Igor TOMBERG | 21.08.2011

The abstract concept of world economy adopted by the West as the theoretical foundation of its financial globalization campaign is obviously getting out of sync with reality. The West’s plan obviously was to create a global financial market under its own control, charged with the mission of distributing assets across the world. The grip on the market was supposed to enable the key players to send destructive signals to national economies, to feed to them various toxic financial assets, or to occasionally block the accounts of defiant leaders, companies, and banks. At the moment, China’s national financial system remains insulated from this type of “coordination” and capable of playing internationally a big game of its own. It should be noted that recently Dagong Global Credit Rating, China’s top rating agency, similarly to Standard and Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating in response to Washington’s enactment of a higher national borrowings ceiling.

The West’s crisis and the unhealthy state of the global financial system automatically cast new light on the advantages of the Chinese system of financial control. Under the circumstances, the part of the world economy powered by the yuan balances its part which fell into untamed dependence on the volatile Western financial markets.

There is consensus among experts that the internationalization of the yuan proceeds considerably faster than expected. The calculations performed by Standard and Poor’s show that over the coming 2-3 years the share of yuan payments in China’s foreign trade will likely reach 20%-30%. Under the circumstances, it will depend on the readiness of China’s trade partners to accept de facto overdue changes to what extent they will benefit from the currency diversification. Measuring the feasibility of switching the trade with China, including Russia’s energy export, to the yuan therefore appears to be a timely idea. It should be also taken into account that, in contrast to what is happening across Western markets, China’s domestic commodity prices currently stay on a steady upward trend.

China’s growing importance to commodity markets must not be ignored by Russia whose economy is propped up by the export of natural resources. A diversification of Russia’s east-bound energy export was officially installed into the national agenda, but so far the volume of fuel export from Russia to China remains stuck at a fairly low mark compared with that to Europe.

The widening of the zone of economies tightly interwoven with China’s economy translates into a serious modification of the traditional North-South interaction models, one of the scenarios on the horizon even being the partition of the global economy into two distinct spheres with their independent centers of gravity. For companies and governments, the dynamics should highlight the importance of developing strategies aimed at optimizing in advance the models of engagement with the Chinese economy.

In particular, it should be realized that the Chinese economy is increasingly exporting investments and that, in contrast to the Western capitals, those from China came into being in the settings of the national modernization and linked to the manufacturing sector rather than to financial markets. The potential impact of Chinese investments on Russia’s economy is yet to be understood considering that the amount of those attracted by Russia up to date is fairly modest. Russian state-run companies, for example, should pay closer attention to the Chinese financial market as getting Chinese and other Asian investors involved into their anticipated partial privatization could prove to be an excellent idea. Among other benefits, Chinese investments can help to shield Russian assets from speculative attacks and the Western investors’ mood swings. Notably, the Chinese stock market fared better than Western ones during last week’s panic caused by the US debt ceiling problem. Even when the Chinese stock market shows clear signs of overheating or suffers occasional asset value drains, China’s economic growth holds on thanks to the clever architecture of the national financial system originally designed to sustain the development of the manufacturing sector. In this regard, China differers radically from the countries whose bloated financial sectors dominate their economies.

As the credit ratings of the countries where the huge financial sector debts weigh on national budgets continue to slide, countries solidly free of external deficit are exposed to the threat of sharp revaluations of their currencies, which, in the cases of China and Russia, would undermine their export capabilities. In contrast, the impact of the potential revaluations on the countries’ bilateral ties would be positive, especially if some level of coordination of the revaluation processes is achieved.

The strengthening of the yuan, Beijing’s gradual loss of interest in pumping up its currency holdings, and China’s vigorous search for untapped investment niches altogether boost the importance of the China-Russia partnership for both countries. China’s potential in the investment sphere is adequate to Russia’s task of cultivating its enormous and extremely resource-rich territories, meaning that the cooperation between Russia and China has a serious future.

It should be taken into account as well that, in contrast to Western countries, China is not overreacting to the tide of panic currently sweeping across the world’s financial markets. Assessing the damage the Chinese currency holdings may face as the dollar is shedding value, Chinese economists suggest using the reserves to reinforce the country’s positions internationally, to reign in inflation, to launch new investment programs, and, above all, to strengthen China’s domestic market based on higher population incomes. There is concern in China that the country can be overwhelmed by foreign investments, with rocketing inflation as the likely result. For China, being a continent of stability takes more than just the abundance of financial resources – preserving the worldview which helps the Chinese solve problems and retain optimism regardless of how their situation is seen from the outside is similarly important.

Given the current volatility of Western finances, deeper engagement with China appears to be Russia’s natural approach to providing its national economy with some kind of defense. For Beijing, Russia’s standing would improve if the course it steers in the international economy meets the expectations of the Chinese regulators and business community who surely know what modernization is about.

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China: A Continent of Stability? (II) [Strategic Culture Foundation]

Posted in Beijing, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, China, Early 21st Century global capitalist financial crisis' US origins, Economic crisis & decline, Economy, Energy, Hong Kong, Japan, USA on August 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Alexander SALITSKI, Igor TOMBERG | 12.08.2011

The 1997-1998 financial crisis highlighted the advantages of China’s gradualist approach to integration into the world economy and to liberalization of foreign-trade policies. Recovery from the current crisis which spread globally from the West was accompanied by expectations that China would eventually take the role of the world’s economic locomotive, but a more realistic scenario is that the beneficial impact of China’s continuing rise will be highly selective.

China is becoming increasingly independent from external financial infusions, and it currently appears that the country will not be absorbing foreign investments at the same rate as it used to. The 11.9% annualized growth of direct investments in China in 2006-2010 – a handsome total of $426b – should not obscure the wider picture: the share of direct foreign investments in China’s investment portfolio is steadily on a downward trend and shrank from 4-6% to 2-3% over the period. The share of direct foreign investments does continue to grow in China’s central and eastern regions and in the country’s services sector, plus the average figures of foreign investments per company are clearly rising.

In contrast to direct foreign investments in China, the volumes of financial outpourings from the country grew at a breakneck pace – by nearly 40% annually – over the 11th five-year cycle. As of late 2010, the total of China’s investments abroad reached $246b, with $59b handed out to foreign partners in 2010 alone.

Generally, the Chinese economy is already saturated with financial resources, and the patterns of interactions between foreign and national investments within China are changing accordingly. In fact the same holds true with regard to the interplay between Chinese and other investments across the global economy. On the whole, at the moment the dynamics of China’s inherently secure economy overshadows the advanced West’s sluggish recovery in shaping the globalization process. The Chinese entrenchment in the international services sector is also worth noting. The combined output of China’s and Hong Kong’s de facto integrated services sectors puts the virtual economic conglomerate on the second position in the list of global champions…

The healthy accumulation of financial resources stabilizes China’s domestic demand. Liquidity injections in China are efficiently channeled into the manufacturing sector, with seizable benefits eventually being drawn by the global economy. The positive impact of the Chinese economic rise is not limited to the country’s heavily industrialized partners such as East Asian countries and Germany. Commodity suppliers also gain massively from China’s contribution to global demand. The share of natural resources in the Chinese import climbed throughout the 11th five-year cycle from 20.3% in 2005 to 28.7% in 2010. Expressed in physical terms, China’s commodity import over the period almost doubled. The import of ferrous ore, for example, rose by a factor of 2.2 and topped 600 billion tons.

Over the past economically tight several years, China’s demand for commodities seriously helped to sustain a tolerable pricing climate on the corresponding markets. In particular, the recent coal and ferrous ore price hikes are clearly attributable to China’s appetites.

In the settings of the global economic nosedive, China’s relatively robust energy demand was the key to the vitality of the oil and gas markets. At the peak of the crisis in 2009, the cost of China’s fuel import dropped by 27% (to $124b, or 12.3% of China’s import total) compared to the 44% US energy import contraction (to $279b, or 17.5% of the US import total).

It should be taken into account in the context that, contrary to widespread criticism, China is not a black hole in terms of energy consumption. While the country was posting impressive growth figures in the second half of the 2000ies, its energy generation and consumption grew at a relatively moderate rate. In 2005-2010, energy generation in China reportedly increased by 6.7% annually while the country’s coal, oil, and natural gas production respectively added 6.6%, 2.3%, and 14.4% a year. The electric power output in China grew by 11% annually on the average. The statistics reflect China’s serious energy efficiency progress, with the sectoral energy efficiency data being even more impressive. In 2006-2010 the energy efficiency improvements in the production of copper, caustic soda, steel, aluminum, and ethylene reached 36%, 35%, 12%, 12%, and 11.5%. The coal-burning efficiency for electric power generation rose by 16%. China’s results for the 11th five-year cycle are therefore comparable to those attained by Japan, a country with a reputation for energy efficiency, over three decades. In Japan, the improvements in 1973-2006 made 20% in steel production, 24% – in concrete production, and 24% in the chemicals sector.

China’s monetary policies exert influence over the global financial situation as profound as China’s commodity needs – over the market of natural resources. In October, 2010, the announcement of higher interest rates by the People’s Bank of China triggered – for the first time on record – appreciable corrections across the financial markets. Since the moment, Beijing’s steps in the financial sphere visibly affected the prices of cold, copper, and the Brent and WTE crude.

The Chinese economy copes fairly easily with the growing prices for some of its imports and with the surge of domestic costs and tariffs. In part, China owes its economic stability to being less dependent on energy import than the US, the EU, or Japan. The Chinese economy is not burdened with ample sovereign or corporate debt, is free of financial sector hypertrophy, and must be credited with success in switching to a higher efficiency mode and cultivating a native services sector. The above combines into generally positive economic outlook for the country. For the rest of the world, gains to be derived from the strengthening of China will be proportional to its partners’ ability to optimize the strategies of cooperating with the country at the government, corporate, and regional levels.

To be continued

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After train crash, China’s bullet tickets hard to sell [People’s Daily]

Posted in Beijing, China, Shanghai, Transportation on August 28, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

August 2, 2011

Partly because of a string of malfunctions and the July 23 train crash in Wenzhou, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway was not as popular in its first month of operation as many had expected.

In a news release on Monday, the Ministry of Railways said the railway had transported 5.26 million passengers from July 1 to July 31, or 170,000 passengers a day on average.

And an average of 179 trains – including both those that run at 200 km/h and at 300 km/h trains – were on the line every day, and the trains had an occupancy rate of 107 percent, the ministry said.

To many who traveled, that last figure no doubt seems puzzling. How, after all, could carriages that were often half empty have been 107 percent occupied?

Zhao Jian, professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said the figure is not a good reflection of reality.

He accounted for it by noting that a seat aboard one of the trains would be said to have a 200 percent occupancy rate if one passenger had sat in it from Beijing to Tianjin and then another passenger had occupied the same seat from Suzhou to Shanghai.

“But according to other indexes popular with foreign railway companies, this seat is being used less than 20 percent of the time,” Zhao said.

Besides the high-speed line running between Beijing and Shanghai, there is an older line that has long taken trains on that route. If that old railway is taken into account, then records show that an average of 254,000 passengers took the trains that run between the two cities every day in July. That number was up by 94,000, or by 58.8 percent, from what it had been in the same period of 2010, it said.

Despite the impressiveness of those figures, travelers will find, perhaps to their surprise, that they will have little trouble buying tickets to ride the 1,318-km-long high-speed rail line.

By 7:30 pm on Monday, a passengers could still buy 754 second-class tickets and 148 first-class tickets for a high-speed train that is to leave from Shanghai for Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, according to the China Railway Customer Service Center’s website. The train contains 1,066 seats.

By the same time, travelers could still get 178 second-class tickets and 124 first-class tickets for the G2, one of the most popular trains going from Shanghai to Beijing.

An employee at a ticket agency in Shanghai’s Central Jinling Road, who requested anonymity, told China Daily that train tickets on the high-speed railway are not difficult to buy. She said that is the case throughout all of Shanghai.

“You can easily get one today if you plan to set off tomorrow,” she said.

The story was different for those who want to travel by air between Shanghai and Beijing.

Luo Zhuping, board secretary of China Eastern Airlines, said seats on the company’s flights on that route are selling well; 90 percent of them continue to be occupied.

“We saw our best sales performance last summer because of the Expo 2010 Shanghai,” Luo said. “But we are achieving almost similar results this year.”

The situation was different in the first week after the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train began operating. The airline then saw the number of travelers using its service fall by 20 percent and began offering generous discounts to draw in more passengers. Few such incentives are being given now, he said.

Still, passengers have not totally abandoned high-speed rails in the days following the Wenzhou train crash, which has killed 40 passengers and injured 191.

Xia Jinou, a postgraduate student from Central Conservatory of Music, took the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway twice this past week to go to a performance in Jinan, Shandong province.

“The train tickets cost only 185 yuan ($29) each, while the cheapest air ticket costs around 500 yuan,” she said. “And the high-speed train arrives only 30 minutes later than the plane.”

“Although I was a little bit worried because of the train crash that happened four days ago, I still had to take a train because I had booked a ticket only days before.”

She said she will perform in Jinan regularly in the future and, since accidents are uncommon, will continue to travel by train.

Source: China Daily

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