40 years on from its defining “opening up reforms”, China seemingly arrives at another critical turning point. The Guardian notes the country is currently grappling with its slowest growth rate in 9 years, a trade war with the US and major debt that “threatens the world economy along with the Chinese financial system”.
One proposed solution for boosting China’s stable economic growth relates to infrastructure investment. In December 2018, China unveiled various infrastructure schemes with an estimated value of over 930 billion RMB (119 billion EUR). Potential may lie in projects related to 5G telecommunications, inner-city transportation and municipal infrastructure. Hence, Professor Zhao Jian of Beijing Jiaotong University told The Global Times that “Rail transport plays a crucial role in urban development. China is planning to develop 20 urban clusters, but the total city railway distance is just 5,000 kilometers […].” Hence, the professor stressed great demand for the further construction of freight railway systems within the country, emphasising such projects would receive good returns.
The same Global Times article claimed such action would “inject new momentum into the sustainable development of China's economy”. However, one may wonder whether such a move would disregard environmental standards on the quest for economic growth. Indeed, China’s past zeal for infrastructure developments has been attributed to environmental degradation.