I planned just one week in China, mostly to meet friends. First I am going to Shanghai to meet Olivier I know from Regensburg in 2006. Later I’ll be back in Beijing and spend some days with Lingli and Anna I know from Frankfurt. My flight from UB arrives in Beijing at 8:30, I get my luggage, buy a Sim card (China Mobile), take the bus line 10 to the Southern Railways station, and finally the fast train to Shanghai.
Germany power 10
I was impressed by the quite good infrastructures in Iran; in China, this is another dimension, everything looks new, thus better than in the old Europe. In Beijing, the terminal 3 and the Southern Railways Station are indeed less than 5 years old. The Railways Station is pretty much like in an airport with a luggage scan and a ticket check-in before reaching the platforms. And many people everywhere, queuing is the norm.
Many details remind me Germany. First everything is clean and the people are very respectful towards the circulation, they respect the traffic lights carefully.
China is known for copying everything. Actually, I think they are quite smart and take (and try to copy) the best. For instance, they love German cars; Volkswagen is already #1 here. They tried to copy them but never succeed. The Germans are also clever; they update their systems regularly so that even if the Chinese duplicated a production line, they cannot use it longer since it gets soon outdated. German industry always targets the highest quality and still competes with China to be #1 in export. I said that already for many years, but France should get more inspiration from Germany. When I read that French companies get contracts in China (or Brazil or India) while accepting a lot of technology transfer, I am not sure how smart it is for the long term. China will soon have their proper copy of the Airbus planes and their own copy of the nuclear reactor (from Areva). And when we see in Europe (Finland or France) that Areva still have difficulties with their technology, a bad copy could be a disaster…
Back to the railways, the most obvious copy (or it is an original? More likely a joint venture) of a German product is the fast train! The ones I took are pretty much ICE3, having a very similar design, in and outside: same doors, toilets, wood and plastic interiors. The seats are however different, with 5 (3+2) per row in 2nd class (instead of 4 in Germany), thus over 16 rows so 80 places per coach. In 1st class, you get 4 seats a row (vs 3) but you get also a business class à 3 seats a row, and the seats there looks closer to the business class of a plane than the first class of an ICE!
The train needs less than 5 hours (add ½ hour when more stops) to drive the 1320km between Beijing and Shanghai, a nice ride through the country. This makes an average speed over 270km/h, and the pick of 303 km/h is reached only 10 min after start! It used to be even faster, but many billions planed to secure the network for speed over 350km/h were used for other purposes in the Department of Transport, probably one of the biggest corruption scandals. The main stop Nanjing is just 1h away from Shanghai (66min precisely). And the trains (at least my coaches in both ways) were almost full between Nanjing and Beijing, a dream for DB and SNCF!
Another better point than these 2 Europeans leaders is that the trains are quite on time! Not even a minute delay noticed! The network is probably much easier than the one in Germany particularly. Anyway, I send many Greetings to my former colleagues at the Deutsche Bahn, my last customer ruling the original ICEs!
In Shanghai, I took the metro many times. The metro is built by Alstom & Shanghai Electric and it is very similar to the one in Tehran (where Alstom got the market as well).
The journey through East China was quite a change after the empty steppes in Mongolia: there is vegetation everywhere in the countryside, from the corn field south from Beijing to the rice paddies north from Shanghai. A lot of forest and some mountains complete the picture, as well as some urban areas.