Less than a decade ago, China did not have a single high-speed train in service. Today, it owns a network of 14,000 miles of high-speed rail, far more than the rest of the world combined. Now, China is pushing its tracks into Southeast Asia, reviving a century-old colonial fantasy of an imperial railroad stretching to Singapore; and kicking off a key piece of the One Belt One Road initiative, which has a price tag of $1 trillion and, reaches inside the borders of more than 60 countries. The Pan-Asia Railway portion of One Belt One Road could transform Southeast Asia, bringing shiny Chinese cities, entire economies, and waves of migrants where none existed before. But if it doesn't succeed, that would be a cautionary tale about whether a new superpower, with levels of global authority unimaginable just a decade ago, can pull entire regions into its orbit simply with tracks, sweat, and lots of money. Journalist Will Doig traveled to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore to chronicle the dramatic transformations taking place -- and to find out whether ordinary people have a voice in this moment of economic, political, and cultural collision.
China’s growing ability in developing massive infrastructure has helped the country to modernize its rail, port and road network. In the last five decades, China has successfully built a number of large infrastructure projects at home and now increasingly in other countries as well.
In High Speed Empire, author and journalist Will Doig explains with insightful examples how China has mastered several related technologies to become a construction super power. However, China is also mixing construction projects with its strategic aim of dominating in Asia and Africa.
The One Belt One Road initiative labeled by the Chinese government mostly as a commercial and economic objective is increasingly perceived as China’s way of overpowering trade partners and neighbors. Financed generously by the Chinese government, most of these projects are designed to meet the needs of the country’s economic interest, and not conceived with the objective to develop partnering countries.
Will Doig is a journalist covering urban development, transportation, and infrastructure. Most recently, he was a senior editor at George Soros's Open Society Foundations. He has worked as an international editor at Next City, an online magazine about urbanism; a contributing writer at Salon, where he wrote the weekly "Dream City" column; and a senior editor at The Daily Beast. He was a recurring guest on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and his work has been republished in two books. A graduate of George Washington University, he lives in New York City.
"The 'high-speed' in the title is a double-entendre reference to China’s regional rail ambitions, but also the speed at which all this change is now coming.... Doig is an engaging writer with a keen eye for the human interest angle and the clever turn of phrase."
“A US-based journalist, Doig travels through Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, spinning an engaging narrative that focuses mostly on China’s 'railway diplomacy'."