Abstract

After three-quarters of a century of fluctuating efforts, the development of railways in China remains an unfinished task today. In contrast to industrially more advanced countries, which had built most of their existing lines by the turn of the present century, railway construction is regarded even now as an indispensable part of the economic development of China. Measured by the potential demands of the country the existing railway facilities are small indeed. Recent data indicate that at the end of 1952 the Chinese railway system consisted of some 17,570 miles of tracks, including all lines in operation on the mainland and Hainan but excluding those on Formosa. This means that there is one mile of railway for every 216 square miles of territory (or approximately 463 miles per 100,000 square miles), and that for every 1,000,000 of population there are 39 miles of rail transportation. Small though the figures appear to be, they nevertheless represent an increase over those of a decade ago. In 1942 the estimate was 12,036 miles of railways in all of China, including those in Manchuria and the occupied areas; the ratio was then 274 miles of railroads per 100,000 square miles, and 27 miles per 1,000,000 population. The vast potential development that lies ahead is apparent when we compare the above figures with those for the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

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