More in opinion


Wednesday, 14 March 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Rail way to prosperity

AS the new Chinese ambassador to Malaysia, I was lucky to spend my first CNY in this country with friends from all sectors and was deeply impressed by the experience.

CNY in Malaysia is full of festive atmosphere with lanterns and coloured lights everywhere. The shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur looked magnificent with CNY decorations featuring Chinese cultural elements. In one mall, I saw some middle school students writing Chinese New Year couplets. I was excited at seeing an old Malay man with a little girl buying a pair of the couplets.

At every gathering, I saw friends of different ethnic groups coming together to celebrate CNY. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and many other ministers as well as villagers from Bagan Datuk, Sembrong and Jenjarom all celebrated CNY with lou sang to give best wishes to each other and to the prosperous future of Malaysia.

I was not only moved by the Malaysian Chinese who inherited and still practise the Chinese cultural traditions so well but was also deeply impressed by the spirit of embracing diversity and pluralistic harmony among Malaysians. This is the cornerstone of stability, source of charm and driving force for the development of Malaysia.

Family and homeland mean a lot to the Chinese, and CNY is the most important reunion day for people who live far away from home. All of them want to go home for the short festive period no matter how long they need to travel, how cold the weather or how hard it is to get a ticket for the journey.

Due to China’s huge population, traffic before and after CNY is called chun yun, which is considered by Western countries as the largest scale of annual human migration.

But thanks to the gradual improvement in China’s public transport and supporting facilities in the past 40 years of reform and opening up, going home has become more convenient.

In 2009, the NHK TV station from Japan made a documentary in Guangzhou during CNY, recording passengers who had to sleep on the ground of train stations in order to save money, crowds of people pushing each other as they rushed to the ticket checking point, and passengers sleeping in the crowded carriageway of trains.

In another chun yun documentary filmed by the BBC in 2016, after the means of transport for people returning home had been diversified – cars, trains, planes and motorcycles – the scene at the ticket checking point was not the same as it was in 2009.

In 2010, the movie Lost On Journey, which showed all kinds of awkward and adventurous journeys during CNY, was a big hit.

The expansion of the high-speed rail network has further shortened the journey home, and during chun yun this year, 390 million travellers took the train.

New technologies such as face recognition, WeChat and Alipay are also making travelling more convenient. Today, the people of China are proud of the fact that a coin could stay erect in a Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail carriage for nine minutes due to the smooth operation of the train.

As China’s first high-speed railway with completely independent intellectual property rights, the Beijing-Tianjin intercity railway was put into operation in August 2008. By the end of 2017, its running mileage had reached 25,000km, accounting for 66.3% of the world’s total mileage in high-speed railway. The cumulative passenger traffic has reached seven billion, which is roughly equivalent to the world’s total population.

The Fuxing train travelling at a maximum speed of 350kph could allow passengers to have reunion dinner at home within a few hours. When I first came to work in Beijing in 1993, I relied mainly on ordinary trains to return to my hometown of Xi’an, Shaanxi. At that time, the journey took about 14 hours.

China has accumulated a great deal of experience and data for the development of high-speed rail technology. From Harbin to Dalian, China has built the world’s first high-speed railway in a frigid zone, through which the rail passes three provinces in north-eastern China with a sharp temperature difference throughout the year.

In addition, the high-speed railway on Hainan Island, the world’s first high-speed rail in a tropical area, has withstood strong typhoons many times.

The construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway overcame three difficulties, namely thousands of miles of frozen soil, extreme cold and lack of oxygen as well as ecological fragility, and created a miracle in railway construction history.

It is true that from a worldwide perspective, China is a latecomer in railway construction. However, due to the diligence and wisdom of its people, China has evolved high-speed rail technology from “technology introduction” to “digestion and absorption”, and now to exporting its “scientific and technological skills”. China now possesses the longest railway mileage, longest running length and largest number of travellers in the world.

It’s been only three months since I took office but I have been impressed by the significant efforts of the Malaysian Government to improve public transport and to provide people here with more convenient and rapid travelling facilities. This coincides with the aspirations of the Chinese government.

During the CNY holiday, I had a chance to experience the comfortable and convenient services of the MRT. On the way to Ipoh on the second day of CNY, I joined a long queue of cars on the road and felt the hardships of people returning home.

I believe that with the gradual implementation of the MRT, ETS, RTS (Rapid Transit System), East Coast Rail Line and Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail, the journey home for Malaysians will become more convenient.

In 2015, China filmed a documentary titled HSR, Changing Life, which featured among others a Malaysian student called Shafiq who studies in China. His aspiration is to become a diplomat. The high-speed rail carries his dream and takes him around China to experience history, culture and customs in the different regions.

I have faith that one day the high-speed trains would assist more Malaysians to enjoy the ease and convenience of life and pursue their dreams. I also firmly believe that by collaborating with China and with the wisdom of the people, Malaysia will soon become a master of the construction technologies and operations of high-speed rail.

During CNY, I witnessed the shared experience of homecoming and shared aspiration of unity of Chinese and Malaysian people. This reflects our shared expectation for our countries to achieve better and faster development in the future.

Both the Chinese and Malaysian governments have formulated ambitious plans for their respective long-term development and kept striding forward in the historical journey of national rejuvenation and progress. As a comprehensive strategic partner, China is willing to work hand in hand with Malaysia to promote close cooperation and complement each other’s advantages, seek common prosperity and realise our respective dreams of development.


Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Malaysia