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China Index

Transportation is a major factor in China's national economy. For most of the period since 1949, however, transportation occupied a relatively low priority in China's national development. Inadequate transportation systems hindered the movement of coal from mine to user, the transportation of agricultural and light industrial products from rural to urban areas, and the delivery of imports and exports. As a result, the underdeveloped transportation system constrained the pace of economic development throughout the country. In the 1980s the updating of transportation systems was given priority, and improvements were made throughout the transportation sector (see fig. 16.)

In 1986 China's transportation system consisted of longdistance hauling by railroads and inland waterways and mediumdistance and rural transportation by trucks and buses on national and provincial-level highways. Waterborne transportation dominated freight traffic in east, central, and southwest China, along the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and its tributaries, and in Guangdong Province and Guangxi-Zhuang Autonomous Region, served by the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River) system. All provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities, with the exception of Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibet), were linked by railroads. Many double-track lines, electrified lines, special lines, and bridges were added to the system. Subways were operating in Beijing and Tianjin, and construction was being planned in other large cities. National highways linked provincial-level capitals with Beijing and major ports. Roads were built between large, medium, and small towns as well as between towns and railroad connections. The maritime fleet made hundreds of port calls in virtually all parts of the world, but the inadequate port and harbor facilities at home still caused major problems. Civil aviation underwent tremendous development during the 1980s. Domestic and international air service was greatly increased. In 1985 the transportation system handled 2.7 billion tons of goods. Of this, the railroads handled 1.3 billion tons; highways handled 762 million tons; inland waterways handled 434 million tons; ocean shipping handled 65 million tons; and civil airlines handled 195,000 tons. The 1985 volume of passenger traffic was 428 billion passenger-kilometers. Of this, railroad traffic accounted for 241.6 billion passenger-kilometers; road traffic, for 157.3 billion passenger-kilometers; waterway traffic, for 17.4 billion passenger-kilometers; and air traffic, for 11.7 billion passenger-kilometers.

Ownership and control of the different elements of the transportation system varied according to their roles and their importance in the national economy. The railroads were owned by the state and controlled by the Ministry of Railways. In 1986 a contract system for the management of railroad lines was introduced in China. Five-year contracts were signed between the ministry and individual railroad bureaus that were given responsibility for their profits and losses. The merchant fleet was operated by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), a state-owned enterprise. The national airline was run by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC). Regional airlines were run by provinciallevel and municipal authorities. Highways and inland waterways were the responsibilities of the Ministry of Communications. Trucking and inland navigation were handled by government-operated transportation departments as well as by private enterprises.

Transportation was designated a top priority in the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1986-90). Under the plan, transportation-related projects accounted for 39 of 190 priority projects. Because most were long-term development projects, a large number were carried over from 1985, and only a few new ones were added. The plan called for an increase of approximately 30 percent in the volume of various kinds of cargo transportation by 1990 over 1985 levels. So each mode of transportation would have to increase its volume by approximately 5.4 percent annually during the 5-year period. The plan also called for updating passenger and freight transportation and improving railroad, waterways, and air transportation. To achieve these goals, the government planned to increase state and local investment as well as to use private funds.

The Seventh Five-Year Plan gave top priority to increasing the capacity of existing rail lines and, in particular, to improving the coal transportation lines between Shanxi Province and other provincial-level units and ports and to boosting total transportation capacity to 230 million tons by 1990. Other targets were the construction of 3,600 kilometers of new rail lines, the double-tracking of 3,300 kilometers of existing lines, and the electrification of 4,000 kilometers of existing lines.

Port construction also was listed as a priority project in the plan. The combined accommodation capacity of ports was to be increased by 200 million tons, as compared with 100 million tons under the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1981-85). Priority also was given to highway construction. China planned to build new highways and rebuild existing highways to a total length of 140,000 kilometers. At the end of the Seventh Five-Year Plan, the total length of highways was to be increased to 1 million kilometers from the existing 940,000 kilometers. Air passenger traffic was to be increased by an average of 14.5 percent annually over the 5-year period, and air transportation operations were to be decentralized. Existing airports were to be upgraded and new ones built.

Data as of July 1987

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