Development of tourism management in China: Tourism to prosper in China upon her further developing transportation infrastructure



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2007 Oxford Business & Economics Conference ISBN : 978-0-9742114-7-3




Development of tourism management in China: Tourism to prosper in China upon her further developing transportation infrastructure

Written by

Dr. Simon Kwai-ming MAK

Assistant Professor

Department of Management,

Faculty of Business,

City University of Hong Kong,

Tat Chee Avenue, Yau Yat Chuen,

Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Telephone: (852) 27887957

Fax: (852) 27887220

E-mail: mgsimak@cityu.edu.hk
Development of tourism management in China: Tourism to prosper in China upon her further developing transportation infrastructure
Abstract
The paper examines the development of tourism management in socialistic China since Deng Xiao-ping adopted the open-door policy in 1978. Similar to other developing socialist countries, tourism development has been greatly influenced by government involvement. Scarcity of resources then characterized tourism development in China. Zhang [1995] designated tourism the policy in the pre 1978 communist era a political one. After Deng Xiao-ping and Chen Yun emphasized that earnings in tourism would be an important means of accumulating foreign exchange, the Chinese government began to acknowledge the economic value of tourism for a country.

Under the auspices of the Chinese government, principles of the market economy has been introduced to promote tourism destinations in China. Thus economic input has propagandized arousing global awareness of attraction sites and cultural heritage in China, imprinting upgraded images. To an increasing extent foreign tourists in China have been impressed with quality service.

Gradually, officials assessed tourism economically, that it should be viewed as “export of scenic spots, and foreign exchange would be earned more quickly than the export of goods”. The government incorporated tourism in the Seventh Five-year National Plan as a key component for economic and social development. Thus streamlined administrative procedures, elimination of obsolete practices, ministerial or departmental restructuring, applying modern management principles, developing tourism professionals utilizing various means including incorporating tourism in the education system and accommodating privately-owned travel agencies.

The 14th Communist Party Congress in 1992 adopted the establishment of a “market economy under socialism” and further accommodated entrepreneurial spirits for tourism, whereas State Development Planning Commission laid down plans in March 2000 to further develop the national transportation infrastructure during 2001-2005. The former will further fuel tourism with capitalistic motivation of individual potentials, whereas the latter will provide the infrastructure to facilitate superb outcomes.



Tourism development since 1978

Beginning as a socialist economic system, Mainland China had not introduced economic reform policy until Deng Xiao-ping adopted the open-door policy in 1978. Since then tourism has quickly evolved to a significant economic activity. Similar to other developing socialist countries, tourism development has been greatly influenced by government involvement. Same as in other developing countries of socialist economic systems, scarcity of resources typically characterized tourism development in China. While the private sector in the tourism industry was small and had little experience, China as a developing country tended to have a government more actively involved in tourism and assume key developmental and operational roles (Jenkins & Henry, 1982). Figures in 1995 show that alliance-, collective- or state-owned hotels totaled 2944, accounting for 79% of the 3720 hotels in China. Private-invested, foreign-invested, or Taiwan-, Macao-, and Hong Kong-invested hotels totaled 694, being 19%. The remaining 2% were stock owned hotels (owned by a group of shareholders through a limited liability or stock company) (CNTA, 1985-1998). In 1998, the number of domestic tourists reached 695 million, spending a total of 239.1 billion yuan (respectively 10% and 74% increase over 1995 (Asian Info, 5 August 2006).

Indeed, since 1978 the Chinese government has adopted various measures and policies to facilitate tourism development in numerous aspects. Before 1978, China primarily had tourism serve the political purposes of a propaganda industry for boasting Socialist China’s achievements and promote overseas awareness and friendship through inviting touring groups of visitors [Han, 1994]. Thus Zhang [1995] designated tourism the policy in the pre 1978 communist era a political one. After Deng Xiao-ping and Chen Yun emphasized that earnings in tourism would be an important means of accumulating foreign exchange, the Chinese government began to realize the economic value of tourism for a country.
Tourism development with respect to government or national development, from 1992 to the present

To examine development of tourism in China, one apt approach is to review the impact of the government or national development on tourism in four stages. The current stage of development began from 2001, as State Development Planning Commission laid down plans in March 2000 to further develop the national transportation infrastructure, at work during 2001-2005. Year 2001 is also the year when the International Olympic Committee elected Beijing to be the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The current stage of tourism development should aim at reaching another summit, besides the achievements attained in the three earlier stages: from 1978 to 1985; from 1986 to 1991, and from 1992 to 1999 (Zhang et al., 1999).

Tourism was incorporated in the Seventh Five-year National Plan in December 1985 as a key component for economic and social development, and was declared to be a far-reaching economic activity, essentially to earn foreign exchange for China’s modernization (Han, 1994; Zhang, 1995). The stage from 1986 to 1991 thus explicitly emphasized the economic contribution of tourism. Year 1992 began another phase of tourism development as a result of the 14th Communist Party Congress in October 1992. The Congress resolved, inter alia, to establish a “market economy under socialism” that left resource allocation to the market itself, within the orbit of socialism (Liu, 1993). However, tourism came to a recess amid the Asian financial turmoil hitting many nations in 1998.

From 1992 onwards and under the auspices of the government’s toleration of a few market economy practices, tourism recovered from the dramatic drop in visitors arrivals resulting from the June 4th incident in 1989 and thrived on. Both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts reached another height in 1995. The goal of revenue derived from tourism set in the National Tourism Plan by 2000 was not out of reach. The mass promotional campaigns undertaken and that tourism’s natural adaptation to market economy principles even in a planned economy largely accounted for this stage of tourism development.

Not greatly disturbed by the Asian financial turmoil, economic development moved on towards advancement up to par with the developed countries. In early 2000s, the Ministry of Railway set the goal to set up an advanced nationwide railway network linking the extant railways with those eastern trunk lines, adding new railways connecting Baoji and Lanzhou, and between Nanjing and Xi’an.
The current stage of national development in favor of tourism

The most obvious on-going national development since around 2001 relate to infrastructure development of the country. If tourism destination equity materialized in four dimensions, national infrastructure development would without exception enhance destination image, perceived touring quality and likelihood of a repeat visit. Not necessarily arising from developing tourism, the national infrastructure development to be described soon will undoubtedly facilitate China’s tourism development further. And we shall see below the different stages of tourism development in China since 1978 have come to a timely stage of improving transport infrastructure, if tourism development can effectively be perfected.


Enhancement of tourism-Site(s) Attributes

Zhang et al. (1999) has identified five roles relative to tourism development in China that the Chinese government has taken up in different periods of development: Operator, Regulator, Promoter, Coordinator and/or Educator. It is noted that whichever role(s) the government has played, there would be enhancement in a few, if not most, attributes in favor of one or more tourism destination. These attributes tourism site(s) usually enhanced awareness, positive image, favorably perceived quality and likelihood of a repeat visit. The following presents how government practices have over the years facilitated the tourism industry with respect to these attributes, either intentionally or as a side effect of other targeted activities.


Tourism also seen to incorporate economic elements

The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) had a promotion division (named Propaganda Division) before 1985 and regularly invited foreign press to report on China. CNTA did organize in the early 1980s the National Geographic tour of photographers and writers as a political tool that immediately made Xian’s terracotta warriors an internationally famous attraction. Nevertheless, in 1988 the government developed marketing campaigns by doubling the budget for the first time. So it appeared that not until then the government did recognize promotion to be an important function for tourism.

Since the Chinese Government’s adoption of the economic reform policy in 1978, the nature of tourism gradually became more obviously an economic activity. After the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), China was in depressed economic conditions with a serious shortage of capital when Deng Xiao-ping and Chen Yun became the supreme leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In the acute shortage of foreign exchange to finance developmental projects, both Deng and Chen delivered important speeches on the economic benefits of tourism. Deng made the point “Developing tourism should first develop those businesses which could earn more money”. Chen did comment that “tourism was just like the export of scenic spots, earning foreign exchange more quickly than the export of goods”. Both agreed that greater efforts should be made to develop tourism (Han, 1994; He, 1992). Deng’s and Chen’s views on tourism did quickly initiated the shift in central government’s policy on tourism from one of totally politics-oriented to one oriented towards politics and economics.
Awareness of Tourism Sites

Inviting representative tourists or institutional visitors to China, show-case to the world and propagating socialist China’s achievements are fundamental ways to promote international understanding and friendship, concomitantly expanding China’s political influence. That CNTA’s Propaganda Division managed to invite foreign press to visit and write on China regularly was very effective in ameliorating China’s image in the eyes of the world, such as to report on the famous National Geographic tour of photographers and writer. These organized tours as a political tool in the early 1980s most effectively propagated global awareness for cultural sites or impressive scenes such as Gobi Desert.


Government measures to upgrade positive image, favorably perceived quality and likelihood of a repeat visit of Tourism Sites

These other attributes addressing tourism-site popularity could be cultivated to an increasing extent when policies on tourism development were oriented more towards economical consideration. For example, more generous budgets were allocated to development of tourism, so that tourism administration could be streamlined, insufficient tourism infrastructure and facilities could be further developed, and ineffective management and poor service quality could be ameliorated. Elimination of surplus procedures in bureaucratic, governmental, fatherly administrative decisions began to receive consensus and endorsement once manpower was available to review the procedures. Gradually, positive attributes in accord with tourism took shape to larger and larger extents.



Ridding the traditional Government’s staffing of obsolete practice(s). The traditional politics-command model did have the branch secretaries of the Communist Party of China take responsibility for operation, not the managers. Decision-making was thus not necessarily a result of economic rationality. On the other hand, employees in the tourism industry were often on the government payroll, implying an “iron rice bowl” or that their jobs were secure forever. Thus evaluation of the employees was not based on their performance. Quality of service provided would not affect assessment of an employee (He, 1992), resulting in little motivation for service quality.

Relevant structural move. Moves to counteract the problem have been put in place. Before 1978, Bureaus of Travel and Tourism (BTT) was under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Foreign Affairs rather than the State Council (also called the Central People’s Government), the supreme executive organ under the Chinese constitution. In 1978, the State Council upgraded the status of BTT to the State General Administration of Travel and Tourism (SGATT) which came directly under its jurisdiction. SGATT became the sole government body responsible for tourism administration. At the time many provinces, municipalities, or cities either restored or established their own tourism bureaus like Guangdong Province, Beijing and Shanghai Municipalities. In 1982, the State Council separated China International Travel Services’ (CITS’) enterprise functions from SGATT (He, 1992), and tourism administration fell under the mandate of a government function that should no longer be treated as enterprise activities. SGATT was then renamed the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).

Advocacy of modern management style. Starting with adoption of corporate management, it was initiated by Deng Xiao-ping, endorsing the following management principles. (a) Separation of tourism enterprises from administrative bodies where autonomy on personnel, finance and operational matters was granted to a certain degree from higher administration; (b) managerial decision making presided rather than the Party secretary command where the manager rather than the Party secretary was given the responsibility for overall management; and (c) rewarding staff on the basis of their performance (Han, 1994). All tourism corporations, including hotels, travel agencies and state-owned enterprises were endorsed to design and adopt a strict appraisal system for staff members. Performance would justify rewards and staff with poor performance could be punished and even dismissed.

Outcome. Being consistent with western hotel management concept, the aforementioned corporate management measures incorporated a chain of command assigning the general manager’s and departmental managers’ responsibilities, rewarding staff members in accord with their performance, and principles of scientific management as based on economic rationale. These measures were practiced with good results in the hotel sector which often embodied foreign investment (He, 1992). Nevertheless, similar measures were not as effective in other enterprises such as travel agencies and airlines, where the politics-oriented decision rationale and “iron rice bowl” privileges were still deeply rooted.

Professional development. At the same time, human resource training was also stressed by the central government. Providing more tourism education was seen as one key input. At around that time, more problems emerged of ineffective management and poor service quality. During the period 1978-1983 there was urgent need for tourism professionals but sufficient funds were not available to set up educational tourism institutes. The CNTA offered financial and human resources to jointly run tourism programs with some universities. By 1986, a tourism education system was in place which comprised 189 vocational schools, 4 secondary professional schools, and 10 colleges and universities offering tourism courses (Zhang, 1987). Having drawn a clear line dividing between (government) administrative tasks and enterprise activities as well as the central government having begun to tackle the problem of increasing demand for tourism professionals, the State Council began to further decentralize the authority for Category One travel agencies to directly contact foreign tour operators.

Tolerance of privately owned travel agencies. Previously only the head offices of CITS and CTS (China Travel Services) had authority to contact foreign tour operators. In 1980 decentralization of marketing promotion to local offices was introduced. In 1984 the State Council further modified its decentralization policy to allow all regional branch offices to contact and sell to foreign tour operators, and to notify the visa issuing authorities, their sales plans being subject to the approval of CITS (Han, 1994). In the same year, the State Council decided that travel agencies could be owned privately, as well as collectively and CNTA classified all agencies into three categories. Category One travel agencies were allowed to negotiate directly with foreign tour operators while the other two were restricted to arranging tour-related activities for the foreign tourists coordinated by Category One travel agencies. Number of travel agencies grew to 1245 by 1987. The number of tourists received by travel agencies increased from 2 million in 1984 to over 3 million in 1987, a 49% growth rate (Han, 1994; CNTA, 1985-1988).

In no time following the decentralization policy for travel agencies, anticipated accommodation demand very soon boosted hotel construction, first by central and local governmental bodies and followed by private individuals (Yu, 1995). The Huiqiao Hotel, for example, in the Hepingli District of Beijing, was built and managed by farmers from the suburbs, and the Lantian Hotel in Shanghai was owned and managed by a local air force unit (Yu, 1995). By 1985, the number of hotels in operation increased to 710, from 137 in 1978. However, the wrong estimate of foreign tourists demand for luxury hotels did teach the government a lesson - a survey of hotels disclosed that 70% were luxury class hotels in the 15 tourist cities in 1985. Findings showed that only 35% of the tourists stayed in economy class hotels, 60% in middle class hotels and only 5% in luxury hotels (Zhao, 1989).



Development of domestically owned hotels. Hotels was the first industry sector that the Chinese government encouraged foreign investment. Foreign invested hotels were not subject to taxation for the first three years, and with only 50% of the investment earnings taxable for the fourth and fifth year. As a result, 45 foreign-invested hotels were ready to accommodate tourists by 1985, representing 85% of the total investment in tourism industry (Tisdell & Wen, 1991). Hotels should be the sector that took up the largest amount of foreign investment. A caveat arose with the growth rate in number of hotels and hotel rooms from 1985 to 1988 exceeding the growth rate of foreign arrivals (the core market for hotel demand). Consequently availability of transportation, in particular civil aviation, lagged behind far from hotel supply (Tisdell & Wen, 1991b). A considerable portion of invested hotels thus could not serve the purpose of adding to the perceived quality contributing to a favorable image to anchor a thought among tourists to come again.
Policy Outcomes of the Period

This period did realize the economic contribution of tourism as China was more open to foreign tourists. In 1978, there were 1.8 million visitors arrival while 716 thousand of them required overnight accommodation (China National Tourism Administration, 2005, p. 21-22). At the time China only had 137 hotels for international tourist.

The adverse experience arising from lack of infrastructure and facilities during the period led to a higher priority put on tourism development by the Chinese government. It drew in foreign investment to speed up funding the development of the industry. Poor service quality, ineffective administration and management triggered the government policies to separate the enterprise/operational tourism activities of the government from its administrative functions. In an attempt to ensure continuous service quality in the years to come, the central government introduced tourism education as well as training programs to satisfy immediate and short-term needs. Tourism was recognized to be worth the government efforts to increase the supply of facilities and services as well as to upgrade the quality of service. The government also learned from the mismatch between the actual foreign tourists demand for luxury hotels and the over-abundant supply of luxury hotels, and admitted that more coordination was desirable. All these guided the government incorporation of tourism in the Seventh Five-year National Plan in December 1985 as a key component for economic and social development. The Plan declared tourism to be an overall economic activity with high potential of earning foreign exchange for China’s modernization (Han, 1994; Zhang, 1995).
Tourism mainly an economic contribution

The five year aimed at continuous improvement in the afore-mentioned areas, promoting plenty of sites in China as ideal tourist destinations, provision of real quality services to build a positive image with each tourist, and anchoring tourists’ intention to visit a second time.

Learning from the mismatch problems in the earlier years, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) laid down the “National Tourism Plan 1986-2000”. The target of the first five years was to improve service quality and infrastructure development so as to have five million foreign visitors in 1991 who might spend up to US$ 3 billion in China. The plan estimated to have up to 12 million foreign visitors in the next 10 years who might spend as much as US$10 billion (Han, 1994).

The problem of mismatch between supply and demand of luxury and other classes of hotels triggered the State Council to set up the National Tourism Commission (NTC) in 1988 to take up the coordinator’s role based on the projected visitor arrival provided to Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) by CNTA (Wei & Feng, 1993).

In the late 1970s and before 1984, the Chinese government emphasized on providing tourism infrastructure and facilities. The policy to develop tourist attractions was merely to restore historical and cultural attractions in various places or cities. The National Tourism Conference in 1984 denoted the equal importance of developing attractions and expanding the receiving capacities of tourist facilities and services. A policy was formulated that the government would each year allocate rmb$5 billion for project development to the top 14 tourist cities. Many cultural attractions were restored or further developed and promoted such as the Great Wall.
The need for tourism education

Image of the tourism cites, perceived quality and formulated idea to make a repeat visit are all determined by the quality of professional services in the course of a tour, apart from the efficient tour arrangements, comfort, pleasant feeling or sentiments experienced by the tourist(s). And the quality of professional services during the tour would without exception be an outcome of the attitude, willingness to share with most tour members the rich knowledge about the tourism destination, and attentiveness of tour professionals including the tourist guide(s). Tourist professionals should have been given firm foundation through formal training or, better still training preceded by official tourism education.

Therefore, CNTA during the period established a nationwide tourism education system. Regional tourism bureaus would set up respective departments governing tourism education for each region. Budget on tourism education of CNTA was enhanced from rmb$2.5 million in 1979 to rmb$40 million by 1988. By 1991, the tourism education and training system included 68 colleges and universities offering tourism courses, 20 secondary professional schools, 178 vocational schools, two training centers, one tourism education press, and several tourism research centers (CNTA, 1985-1988; Han, 1994a).

Furthermore, CNTA issued rules to regulate all travel agencies in 1988 to ensure good standards of operations and service quality. Reacting to complaints against poor service quality and tour guides’ deteriorating ethical conduct, CNTA issued a “Ban on Receiving Commission in Tourism” and “Provisional Regulations on Administration of Tourist Guides” in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Unfortunately, service quality only improved to a limited extent, probably because the “iron rice bowl” preconception was still affecting many tourism employees (Zhang et al., 1999).

During 1986-1990, CNTA’s promotional budget was merely about US$1.4 million a year (Bailey, 1987). After the growth of tourist arrival slowed down in 1987 and 1988, and after tourist arrivals dropped by 23% sharply following the June 4th incident at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the promotional budget increased back to US$3.2 million only by 1991(TTG Asia, 1994b).

Impact of the June 4th Incident. The efforts to step up the standards of the tourism industry did not achieve the intended targets by the end of the period - in 1991, foreign tourist arrivals were 2.71 million (CNTA, 2005, p. 22), short of the 1990 target of 5 million mentioned earlier (Han 1994). Poor service quality was still a problem in hotels, despite that it improved primarily in the foreign invested and managed hotels. CNTA had a survey reporting that one-quarter of Japanese tourists were dissatisfied with the overall quality of service in China. More than doubling over 1990 of CNTA’s promotional budget a year in 1991 (US$3.2 million) for tourism reflected that by 1991 tourism was recognized as an important economic activity in China. The industry comprised 2,130 hotels, 1561 travel agencies, and hiring 708,000 employees directly, probably supporting 2.8 indirect employees as well (CNTA, 1985-1998; Sun, 1989).
Tourism to utilize market economy principles

In early 1992, Deng Xiao-ping announced the speeding-up and intensification of economic reforms during his inspection of Guangdong. The 14th Communist Party Congress (in October 1992) resolved that China should develop a “market economy under socialism”, allowing the market to determine resource allocation under the guidelines of socialism. The Chinese economy would be more geared towards the principles of market mechanism, attaching more importance to both receiving international tourists in China and promote overseas travel of Chinese nationals - two objectives of the “National Tourism Plan 1986-2000”.

Several market-oriented measures subsequently took place:


  1. The “Tour Guide Registration System” utilizing licensing examination was introduced in 1995 to improve the service quality and competence of tour guides;

  2. Establishment of Chinese hotel management companies (HMCs) was encouraged to help domestically owned hotels improve their service quality that had not generally met international standards (in 1993 CNTA promulgated the “Provisional Methods on Administration of Hotel Management Companies” regulation to control the approval procedures and operating conditions of HMC’s [including the Chinese ones that gradually replaced the expensive foreign HMCs]); and

  3. CNTA further heightened tourism promotion between 1991 and 1993 (TTG Asia, 1994b), doubling the budget from US$3.2 million to 6.4 million. Since 1991, both visitors and tourism receipts had grown persistently, as a result of CNTA’s international promotional efforts (Beijing Review, 1994).

In early 1990s tourism fully recovered from the drastic drop in visitor arrivals in 1989. Furthermore, by the end of 1995, China had 3720 hotels, 3826 travel agencies and around 34 airlines (CNTA, 1985-1995; Gayle, 1994). Visitor arrivals totaled 83.4 million of those 10.2 million were foreign tourist arrivals and tourism receipts reached US$16.2 billion in 2000. The target tourism revenue of the National Tourism Plan of US$80-100 billion by 2000 was reached.


2008 Summer Olympics a catalyst to developing transportation infrastructure

On July 13, 2001, the IOC elected Beijing to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Gu Zhaoxi, Vice Chairman of China National Tourism Administration, opined that the event is deemed to provide “another opportunity for China’s tourism”, a “valuable chance to better develop our tourism product and service, to perfect our tourism environment, and to upgrade our tourism market and better position our tourism image” (Gu, 2005). The Chinese government began to pay more attention to the tourism environment and tourism image. Soon attention will be drawn to the importance of transportation infrastructure relative to tourism, although coincidentally, the Chinese Government has been asking specialists to plan both railway and road transportation including the national expressway grid for advancement of transportation per se.

Transportation is an area that has a profound impact on the value of a tourist destination, as it will add value to the destination: Easy transport makes it easier to advertise about the place, elevating higher degree of global awareness of the attraction sites. Comfortable and efficient commuting will always improve the image of a site, the perceived quality of the tour, and enhance the formulated intention to come a repeat visit.

China has quite many famous tourist attractions. When one visits a particular scenery, one has a logical question to ask, “Where is my next tourist destination?” Where traffic is easy in China, a tourist will most certainly visit two or more tourist attractions, even quite far apart. Thus it is not difficult to argue that with more developed traffic network, tourism in China will prosper to an even greater extent.

Besides, tourists should have been discouraged to a considerable extent to embark on traveling on the road to and fro from town to town; from village to village; from county to county; and from city to city, within a province, or even from one province to another province, because of the rather frequent occurrence of fatal road accidents in China. For example, CRIENGLISH.com reported on 9 June 2006 a road accident killing 3 when a bus fell off a mountain road in Hubei Province on Thursday, 8 June 2006. Xinhua News Agency reported another example on 25 Decmeber 2006 through www.china.org.cn about a bus fell into the icy water on Saturday 24 December 2005 in northern China, missing 28 persons. A number of road accidents arose partly or even mainly because of the lack of maintenance. More extensive network and better development of the road infrastructure should reduce, if not prevent, the number of road accidents.

It is encouraging to note that the Chinese government has laid down plans for developing transportation infrastructure, since 2000. On 15 March 2000, an official of the State Development Planning Commission disclosed plans to expand China’s subway, light rail transport and high speed railway networks in the coming two decades, asking foreign railway production companies to bid for the related projects (People’s Daily, 15 March 2000).


Nationwide Railway Network

Subsequently, the Ministry of Railway set an ambitious goal to establish an advanced technology-based railway network during 2001-2005; and by 2015 with technology upgrading planned to establish a nationwide railway supervision network to ensure rail safety, to construct more railways in western China, with a major information network (People’s Daily, 25 April 2000).

The Ministry then mapped out a blueprint for construction of a railway transportation network in western China, in three consecutive construction stages (People’s Daily, 10 May 2000). The first step was to link the existing railways with those trunk lines in the east, including a new railway between Baoji and Lanzhou and Nanjing-Xi’an railway to be built. Later stages would cover construction of an inter-provincial railway network and a transnational channel bridging Asia and Europe.
World’s Highest Railway

The 1,140km (710-mile) Qinghai-Tibet line, the world’s highest railway, was opened by Chinese President Hu Jintao before the 2nd half of 2996 (BBC News, 1 July 2006). At its highest point, the railway will reach 5,072m (16,640ft) – beating by 225m a route through the Peruvian Andes that was previously the world’s highest railway. The railway has assimilated high-tech engineering to stabilize tracks over permafrost and sealed cabins to protect passengers from the high altitude.

In parts, the train line has been built on bridges elevated above the most unstable permafrost. Elsewhere, cooling pipes have been sunk into the ground to ensure that it remains frozen to stabilise to the tracks. The train carriages have windows with ultra-violet filters to keep out the sun’s glare, as well as carefully regulated oxygen levels with spare supplies to combat the thin air.

Zhu Zhensheng of the Chinese railway ministry called the new line a “major achievement” that will “hugely boost local development and benefit the local people”. But exiled Tibetan Lhadon Tethong believed that the railway was “engineered to destroy the very fabric of Tibetan identity”. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile since 1959, had his spokesman opine that how the railway line would be used would be the main concern, rather than the railway line itself being a cause of concern for the Tibetan people (BBC News, 1 July 2006).


National Expressway Grid in the Pipeline

China’s expressway construction began in 1988, when the late premier Zhao Ziyang persuaded his Politburo colleagues that roads – then largely a transport option for a bourgeois elite – were essential to economic growth. China’s expressways already rank second in the world after the US. Last October (2005), the Ministry of Communication published a plan to expand the expressway network to 85,000km – about 10,000km longer than the interstate network in the US. Dubbed “7-9-18”, the plan is to connect all towns and cities with a population of more than 200,000. The network will consist of seven key expressways radiating from Beijing, nine running from north to south, and 18 crossing from east to west. Trunk roads will account for 68,000km of the total, while five regional ring roads will add a further 17,000km.

The above projected figures were reported in the third week of July 2006 on capital spending. Investment last month on roads, factories and property in urban areas rose 33.5 per cent year on year, according to the report. And the expressway system is proceeding at breakneck speed, with the China Daily reporting recently that 41,000km had been completed by the end of last year. In Guangzhou, work is due to begin in late 2006 on 12 new expressways that will run through southern and northern parts of the city.

The city’s total transport budget for 2006 alone is 20 billion yuan. Over the next few months towards the end of 2006, construction will begin on new expressways emanating from Fuzhou, Chengdu, Hefei and Lanzhou. (SCMP, 27 July 2006, p. A12). The total estimated expressway investment over 30 years is 2 trillion yuan, with an initial annual investment of 150 billion yuan through to 2010, adding about 3,000km of road per year. The total system is estimated to be completed by 2035.



The Ministry of Communications’ “7-9-18” Plan

The above map shows the Ministry’s drafted plan of connecting all towns and cities with a population of more than 200,000. The network will consist of seven key expressways radiating from Beijing, nine running from north to south, and 18 crossing from east to west. Trunk roads will account for 68,000km of the total, while five regional ring roads will add a further 17,000km (SCMP, 27 July 2006, p. A12).


Finale

If there are plenty of traffic routes to choose for a tourist to go between sites in China more conveniently, a good percentage of tourists visiting China will visit more attraction sites, stay longer and thus spend more when they travel in China. Tourism in China will obviously blossom further.



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June 24-26, 2007


Oxford University, UK


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