Striving to Be a Pioneer of China's Modernization Drive
To develop a world-class transportation system is a strategic decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Xi Jinping at its core, based on China's national conditions and the global context as well as with an eye to the future, and such a system will sustain the effort to build China into a modern socialist country. In his keynote speech to the Second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference in October 2021, President Xi said that generations of Chinese people have built roads through mountains and bridges over rivers since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, creating a vast transportation system, and now they are rapidly building it into a world-class one. He also noted that transportation has become a pioneer of China's modernization drive.
I. Shouldering transportation's historic mission as a pioneer of modernization
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, President Xi has kept a close eye on transportation work and made a series of statements on the importance of transportation. He emphasized that the maxim "building roads is the first step to prosperity" still holds true; to have a developed economy and strong country, China must have strong transportation, especially ocean shipping; and a transportation network is a precursor to urban modernization. In the keynote speech at the Second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference, President Xi set out the mission and tasks for transportation with new dimensions, which are rich and far-reaching in significance.
Transportation has been given new dimensions.
President Xi stated that transportation is the arteries of the economy and bonds between civilizations. He also said that transportation has become a pioneer of China's modernization drive. These statements point to the importance of transportation in social development and have deepened the CPC's understanding of its significant role. Transportation is a fundamental, leading strategic industry and a valuable service in the national economy. To be a pioneer of China's modernization drive, we must stay connected with the world and keep abreast of the times. We must follow the global modernization trends, stay in line with the characteristics of China's development, and accelerate transportation modernization. We must focus on building a large, strong and dependable transportation system, provide inclusive and high-quality transportation services that people enjoy using, and possess both the requisite hardware and software and world-leading transportation capabilities. We must also create green, low-carbon and innovative modes of transportation, build a transportation network with global connections, and ensure easier movements of people and smoother flows of goods.
Transportation has been given a new strategic status.
The CPC has always prioritized the development of transportation and focused on its leading role in socioeconomic development and national modernization. As early as 1948, Mao Zedong said the restoration and development of industrial and agricultural production required "...first of all, the solution of the problems of communications, transport and the repair of railways, highways and waterways." In 1954, Zhou Enlai stated in the Report on the Work of the Government delivered at the First National People's Congress, "Unless we establish a powerful, modern industry, a modern agriculture, modern communications and transport services and modern national defense, we shall be able neither to shake off backwardness and poverty, nor attain the goal of our revolution." In 1986, Deng Xiaoping commented during an inspection of Tianjin, "The Japanese say that modernization should start with transport and telecommunications. That sounds quite sensible to me." Now as the CPC leads the Chinese people on a new journey to achieve the Second Centenary Goal, President Xi's statement, "Transportation has become a pioneer of China's modernization drive," crystallizes our Party's new understanding of the laws of transportation development.
Transportation has been given a new historical mission.
Each generation must accomplish its own mission. During the New Democratic Revolution, the CPC united and led the Chinese people in fighting unyieldingly to eventually establish a new China in 1949. It took the transportation industry from under foreign control and began to develop it independently. During the period of socialist revolution and reconstruction, despite persistent technology blockades, our Party led the transportation industry in achieving breakthroughs and putting in place a basic transportation system. This transition from independence to self-reliance laid the vital foundation for China to develop a vast transportation network and provided strong support for China to stand on its own feet. In the era of reform, opening up and socialist modernization, China faced socioeconomic development bottlenecks caused by transportation, so the Party oversaw the rapid development of the transportation industry. With vast transportation infrastructure built, the transportation capacity was expanded to make the leap from self-reliance to self-sufficiency. It also helped China achieve growing prosperity. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the CPC Central Committee led by Xi Jinping has helped transportation take the significant stride from self-sufficiency to self-strengthening, and China is rapidly becoming a country with great strength in this sector. Today transportation is striving to be a pioneer of China's modernization and working tirelessly to support the Chinese nation in growing strong.
An aerial photo of a tour bus in Yashan Scenic Area in Dayu County, Jiangxi Province. In recent years, Dayu County has improved its road network and developed eco-tourism, helping to add vitality and beauty to the local area. PHOTO BY ZHU HAIPENG
II. Historic achievements in China's transportation
Under the leadership of the CPC, China's transportation industry has experienced tremendous changes and taken immense strides to catch up with the times. Particularly since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has led the transportation industry in making historic achievements and undergoing historic changes. This has given China a vast transportation system, and modernization in certain areas of transportation has been world-class. We are quickly closing in on the target of becoming a country with great strength in transportation.
A train designed for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games travels along the Juyong Pass section of the Great Wall on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway, January 10, 2022. This high-speed rail service began operation in 2019. As China's first smart high-speed rail line, it was a key supporting project for the Games. PHOTO BY LUO CHUNXIAO
A modern, comprehensive, and three-dimensional transportation network is taking shape.
Upholding the prioritization of transportation, China has built the world's largest high-speed railway and expressway networks as well as a group of world-class ports, Chinese aircrafts and shipping vessels connect China to the rest of world, and China's transportation networks exceed 6 million km. By the end of 2021 the total operating mileage of railways across the country had exceeded 150,000 km, including more than 40,000 km of high-speed railways. Highways across the country exceeded 5.2 million km and connected 98% of cities each with a population of more than 200,000 people. There are approximately 2,660 berths for 10,000-ton vessels and above in ports nationwide. The total length of China's urban rail transit systems is 8,708 km, with rail transit networks being developed in very large cities and megacities. China also has 248 certified airports. The express delivery network now covers 80% of villages, and delivery end-user services are constantly being improved. Construction of multi-level, integrated, and comprehensive transportation hubs has accelerated, and the framework of a national comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network consisting of "six axes, seven corridors, and eight trunk lines" is taking shape. Transportation not only shortens spatial and temporal distance for people, but also profoundly changes the appearance of urban and rural areas. Nowadays, China boasts a vast road network, dense railways, globally connected ports, sea-spanning bridges, rapid high-speed railways, huge ships, and modern airplanes. The dream of transforming China's transportation has become a reality.
Modern transportation services are booming.
Upholding the concepts of the primacy of the people and being service-oriented, we have focused our efforts on satisfying the people's needs for transportation and accelerated the transformation of transport into modern services. Transportation has thus become a sector that gives the Chinese people a strong sense of fulfillment. Travel by passengers has become more convenient and comfortable, with electric multiple unit (EMU) trains accounting for approximately 70% of all railway passenger transport, and high-speed trains have become an enjoyable means to travel, which is accessible to the majority of people in China. Urban rail transit systems have been developed in 51 Chinese cities, and new forms and models of business are flourishing, such as online transportation services and bicycle-sharing schemes. All towns and villages meeting certain conditions within impoverished areas now have access to paved roads and bus lines. Direct postal services cover all villages, and there are express delivery depots in most towns and townships. Integration of urban and rural transport services has greatly improved, fulfilling the solemn promise that, "No place will be left behind on the road to moderate prosperity due to transport issues." The Good Rural Roads Initiative has led to great changes in the countryside, with more than 4.4 million km of rural roads having been built to connect villages, bringing tangible social and economic improvements and realizing the modest wish of rural residents to be able to take a bus on a paved road. Freight logistics services have become more economical and efficient, promoting the transport of bulk goods by rail or water instead of road, and the volume of rail-water intermodal container transport has increased by an average of more than 20% over five years. The abolition of expressway toll booths at provincial borders has created a smoother expressway network, and the maximum shipment of express deliveries per day is close to 700 million items. As a result of these advancements, China now has one of the busiest transportation systems in the world.
Advances of science and technology in the transportation industry have increased significantly.
China's CR (China Rejuvenation) high-speed trains have reached a world-class level, and major breakthroughs have been made in developing other equipment, including the Comac C919 airliner and a test prototype of a high-speed maglev train capable of traveling at 600 km/h. Major transportation projects, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Beijing Daxing International Airport, Beijing-Zhangjiakou intercity high-speed railway, and the 12.5-meter deep-water channel in the Yangtze River from Nanjing to Taicang, have been completed and put into operation, marking new heights in Chinese transportation construction. More than half of the world's new energy vehicles are in China, and more than 66% of the country's urban public buses are powered by new energy. Applications of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in transportation are expanding, and the development of intelligent ships, intelligent connected vehicles, unmanned delivery, and automated container terminals is gaining speed. China's transportation system is taking giant strides in modernization, providing a template for the rest of the world.
The governance of transportation has improved markedly.
In continuing reform while improving the legal framework and optimizing supply while expanding demand, we have constantly injected new vitality into transportation development and upgraded the governance of transportation. A comprehensive system of transportation laws and regulations has basically been formed, which includes 8 laws, 43 administrative regulations, and 282 ministerial rules. Institutions and mechanisms of the comprehensive transportation system are constantly being improved. At the national level, a comprehensive transportation administration system has been created, which consists of the Ministry of Transport and the National Railway Administration, Civil Aviation Administration, and State Post Bureau ("one ministry and three agencies"). At the provincial level, reform of the comprehensive transportation administration system is gradually advancing. As a result, operational mechanisms are improving, and a system of standards has largely been established. Progress has been made in reforms to streamline administration and delegate power, improve regulations, and upgrade services as well as to refine comprehensive administrative law enforcement in transportation. The corporatization of railways and postal services is basically complete, and the reform of general aviation is deepening. The Internet Plus supervision model is being thoroughly applied, the business environment is being optimized, and a unified and open transportation market is quickly taking shape.
Opening up and cooperation in the field of transportation are deepening.
Aiming to have a transportation system with global connections, China has built a group of world-class ports, handling the highest throughputs of freight and containers in the world. China now has the greatest maritime connectivity and the largest goods trade of any economy. Freight trains between China and Europe travel to 23 European countries, and China has expanded international road transportation cooperation to include 19 countries. China is connected to over 100 countries by international maritime transport routes, and China's airlines operate international scheduled flights to and from 75 cities in 44 countries. To assist with high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, China has signed with its partners 22 intergovernmental agreements on facilitating international road transportation, 72 bilateral and regional maritime transportation agreements, and 131 bilateral air transportation agreements. In addition, China-Europe freight train services, maritime Silk Road shipping, the China-Europe land-sea express line, and the "Silk Road in the air" have all greatly aided international transportation, and an interconnected framework involving six corridors, six types of routes, multiple countries, and multiple ports is being put in place. During the Covid-19 pandemic, freight trains between China and Europe and shuttling ocean-going cargo ships have helped stabilize global industrial and supply chains, reflecting China's vital role in the global response to the virus.
III. Reaching new heights in transportation
A famous Chinese saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." To be a pioneer of China's modernization, we must be mindful of that first step and every step thereafter, in order to constantly elevate the cause of transportation to new heights.
Keep the big picture of China's development in mind, and continuously improve our ability to provide safe and efficient transportation services.
We will improve work safety in transportation, not let up in our efforts to implement routine Covid-19 control measures, strive to ensure smooth flow of domestic and international logistics supply chains, and establish a unified and open transportation market. We will conduct appropriate forward planning for infrastructure investment and accelerate the construction of a modern, high-quality, and comprehensive three-dimensional transportation network by advancing the development of "six axes, seven corridors, and eight trunk lines." We will focus on optimizing the layout of comprehensive transportation channels, build multi-level, integrated and comprehensive transportation hubs, and step up the construction of sophisticated high-speed transportation networks, complete mainline networks and expansive basic transportation networks. We will also focus on implementing major regional strategies, target deficiencies in the coverage of the transportation network and connectivity issues, and strengthen the construction of routes to Xinjiang and Xizang. We will accelerate improvements to the quality and efficiency of the existing networks, strengthen integration and connectivity, and improve the efficiency of the comprehensive transportation network. We will get city clusters and metropolitan areas to take the lead in transportation modernization and improve the integration of transportation between urban and rural areas. We will also increase construction of new transportation infrastructure and upgrade existing infrastructure through digitalization and network connectivity.
Fully-loaded cargo ships navigate the Sucheng section of the Grand Canal in Suqian, Jiangsu Province, December 4, 2021. As a major north-south water transportation artery, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal plays a vital role in China's integrated transportation network and the Yangtze River Delta's economic and social development. PHOTO BY MA HAIFENG
Uphold the primacy of the people and strive to develop transportation that gives people enjoyment.
Focusing on the realization of the "national 123 transportation" objective (to achieve a maximum of a one-hour commute within urban areas, two-hour travel between cities of a conurbation, and three-hour travel to major cities nationwide), we will promote rapid and convenient travel services and vigorously develop high-capacity and efficient interregional express passenger transport services centered on high-speed rail and aviation. We will apply the operational mode of public bus service in urban and suburban passenger railways and intercity road passenger transportation and make passenger services more inclusive and equal. We will also improve accessibility for disabled passengers and accelerate efforts to make travelling more enjoyable. Focusing on the "global 123 fast logistics" objective (to achieve one-day delivery in China, two-day delivery to/from neighboring countries, and three-day delivery to/from major cities around the world), we will devote substantial efforts to boosting multimodal transportation, quickly develop high-speed rail freight and air freight, and bolster high-quality road freight services. We will accelerate improvements to urban logistics distribution networks as well as logistics services at the county, township, and village levels. We will develop e-commerce logistics, cold chain logistics, large-cargo transportation, and logistics for dangerous cargo, and strive to ensure the stability and smooth flow of supply chains and all goods. We will consolidate and expand achievements in connecting administrative villages with the requisite conditions via paved roads and bus services, further improve the breadth and depth of coverage of the rural road network, encourage upgrading of rural transportation infrastructure, and promote the high-quality development of the Good Rural Roads Initiative. We will make progress in integrated rural passenger, cargo and postal services, speed up the construction of logistics for rural postal services, and improve integrated urban and rural transportation services.
Continue to blaze a trail and pursue innovation-led high-quality development of transportation.
With a commitment to innovation, we will strengthen technological and management innovation and advance the high-quality development of transportation. We will focus on using technological innovations to develop transportation, strive to make breakthroughs in key technologies, and strengthen R&D on new vehicles, including Chinese standard high-speed EMU trains and pedigree Chinese standard subway trains. We will develop and adopt specialized equipment, popularize new-energy, intelligent, digital and lightweight transportation equipment and complete sets of technical equipment, and promote advanced, appropriate and fully controllable transportation equipment. We will encourage the thorough integration of new technologies, such as big data, the Internet, artificial intelligence and blockchain, in the transportation industry, vigorously develop smart transportation and smart logistics, and encourage the sound and stable development of new forms of transportation to constantly boost growth momentum. We will encourage the formulation and revision of relevant laws and regulations and promote the formation of a comprehensive and interconnected system of transportation laws, policies, and standards. We will accelerate improvements to institutions and mechanisms to meet the needs of a world-class transportation system and further reforms in key areas. We will build a unified, open, competitive, and orderly transportation market system and continue to improve the business environment. We will encourage social organizations to participate in our industry's governance and expand channels for public participation. We will facilitate the development, introduction, and use of talent, nurture more first-class leading personnel and innovation teams, carry forward the new era spirit of transportation, and provide strong support for rapidly building a world-class transportation system in China.
Prioritize ecological conservation and strive to support the shift to green and low-carbon development.
Transportation is a major sector in terms of energy consumption and emissions. To modernize transportation, we must adhere to a high-quality development path that prioritizes ecological conservation and is green and low-carbon. To this end, we will accelerate the construction of a green and efficient transportation system, optimize the transportation structure, and promote the transportation of bulk goods and medium- and long-distance freight by rail or water rather than by road. We will also encourage the use of low-carbon and diversified energy sources for transportation and promote applications of new and clean energy. We will continue to lend impetus to the construction of charging points and charging stations in key regional expressway service areas and passenger transport hubs. We will strengthen prevention and control of pollution and continue to control pollution from diesel vehicles that exceed emissions standards. We will implement the system of control zones for air pollution from ships, promote the widespread application of recyclable express delivery packaging, encourage green modes of transportation, and make transportation low-carbon and environmentally friendly.
Uphold global connectivity and strive to promote higher-standard opening up and cooperation in transportation.
We need to keep communicating with the rest of the world and stay abreast of the times, remain open, inclusive and interconnected, and make greater contributions to the development of transportation around the world on the basis of ensuring its development in China. We need to open transportation wider and more deeply to the outside world and to international cooperation, promote infrastructure connectivity with neighboring countries, and facilitate international road transportation. We will promptly implement the outcomes of the Second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference and make thorough preparations for establishing the Global Innovation and Knowledge Center for Sustainable Transport, to make it an important platform for opening up and cooperation in the field of transportation and for China to contribute its energy and ingenuity to the sustainable development of global transportation.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 4, 2022)