Transportation in the People's Republic of China

Transportation in the People's Republic of China

Transportation in the People's Republic of China has experienced major growth and expansion since 1949 and especially since the early 1980s. Airports, roads, and railway construction will provide a massive employment boost in China over the next decade.

Rail, which is the primary mode of transportation, has doubled in length since the mid-twentieth century, and an extensive network provides sufficient service to the entire nation. The larger cities have metro systems in operation, under construction, or in the planning stage. The highway and road system also has gone through rapid expansion, resulting in a rapid increase of motor vehicle use throughout China. Although China's transportation system comprises a vast network of transport nodes across its huge territory, the nodes tend to concentrate in the more economically developed coastal areas and inland cities along major rivers.

The physical state and comprehensiveness of China's transportation infrastructure tend to vary widely by geography. While remote, rural areas still largely depend on non-mechanized means of transportation, a modern maglev train system was built in China to connect the city center of Shanghai with its international airport.

Much of contemporary China's transportation systems have been built since the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949. Prior to 1950, there were only 21,800 km of railway lines. In 2007, the railway network has since been expanded to 78,000 km. Rail travel remained the most popular form of transport, although air travel has also experienced significant growth since the late 1990s. The government-led effort — that began in the 1990s — to connect the country by expressways via the "National Trunk Highway System" has expanded the network to more than 53,000 km by the end of 2007, making China's the second longest expressway network in the world (after the United States).


China is in the midst of a massive upgrade of its transportation infrastructure. Until recently, China’s economy was able to continue to grow despite deficiencies in infrastructure development. This is no longer the case, and the Government realizes that in order to keep the economy moving forward, they need an efficient system in place to move goods and people across the country. According to World Bank statistics, goods lost due to poor or obsolete transportation infrastructure amounted to one percent of China's GDP as recently as the most current survey (mid 1990s). Logistic costs account for 20% of a product's price in China, compared to 10% in the United States, and 5% in countries that are even better developed--the United States is rapidly falling behind other better-developed countries.

Ports are being improved for greater use of China’s waterways, and airports are being improved across the country. Related industries such as construction equipment, engineering, container security, and electronics and safety devices have also grown rapidly.


Mainland China

Transportation in Mainland China is regulated by the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Railways, the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

pecial administrative regions

The aforementioned transportation authorities have no jurisdiction in Hong Kong and Macau. Hong Kong's transportation is regulated by Transport Department of Hong Kong whereas Macau's transportation is regulated by Land, Public works and Transport Bureau of Macau.


Rail is the major mode of transportation in China. Carrying some 24% of the world’s railway transportation volume, China’s railway system is critical to its economy. China has the world's third largest rail network, the total track length being at 76,000 km in 2006.

The national rail system is modernizing and expanding rapidly and is efficient within the limits of the available track. Some 71,898 km of track were operational in 2002. This total included 71,898 km of standard gauge (1,435 mm) track (18,115 km of which were electrified) and 3,600 km of 1,000 mm and 750 mm gauge local industrial lines. There were an additional 23,945 km of dual-gauge track not included in the total. As of 2002, some 23,058 km of the railroad routes were double tracked, representing 38.7% of the total.

In 2004 China’s railroad inventory included 15,456 locomotives owned by the national railroad system. The inventory in recent times included some 100 steam locomotives, but the last such locomotive, built in 1999, is now in service as a tourist attraction while the others have been retired from commercial service. The remaining locomotives are either diesel or electric powered. Another 352 locomotives are owned by local railroads and 604 operated by joint-venture railroads. National railroad freight cars numbered 520,101 and passenger coaches 39,766.

In 2003 China’s railroads carried 2.2 trillion tons of freight and 478.9 trillion passenger/kilometers. Only India had more passenger/kilometers and the United States more net ton/kilometers than China.

Because of its limited capital, overburdened infrastructure, and need to continuously modernize, the national rail system, which is controlled by the Ministry of Railways through a network of regional divisions, operates on an austere budget. Foreign capital investment in the freight sector was allowed beginning in 2003, and international public stock offerings opened in 2006. In another move to better capitalize and reform the rail system, the Ministry of Railways established three public shareholder-owned companies in 2003: China Railways Container Transport Company, China Railway Special Cargo Service Company, and China Railways Parcel Express Company.

High speed rail

As of 2007, of the 76,000 km total of rail track, 6,003 km were suitable and approved for high speed rail. The high speed service is mainly operated by China Railway High-speed.

Regional development

In 1992, a new large-scale rail project was launched in China, called the "New Silk Road" or "Eurasian Continental Bridge" project. The project involved the modernization and infrastructure development of a 4,131 km railroad route starting in Lianyungang, Jiangsu, and traveling through central and northwestern China to Urumqi, Xinjiang, to the Alataw Pass into Kazakhstan. From that point, the railroad links to some 6,800 km of routes that end in Rotterdam.

China also has established rail links between seaports and interior export-processing zones. For example, in 2004 Chengdu in Sichuan was linked to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in coastal Guangdong; exports clear customs in Chengdu and are shipped twice daily by rail to the seaport at Shenzhen for fast delivery.

Qingzang railway

A 1,080 km section of the Qingzang railway has been completed from Golmud to Lhasa. The 815 km section from Xining to Golmud in Qinghai opened to traffic in 1984. The railway's highest point, the Tanggula Mountain Pass, is 5,072 m above sea level, making it the highest railway in the world. More than 960 km, or over four-fifths of the railway, is at an altitude of more than 4,000 m, and over half of it was laid on frozen earth. Because of the high altitudes, carriages are supplied with supplemental oxygen.

Linking Lhasa and Xigaze together in Tibet, the construction of a 254 km extension line of the Qingzang railway will start in 2007 with completion expected by 2010. This railway, the first feeder line for the Qingzang railway, will cost around 11 billion yuan (US$1.42 billion), said Dotub, a Tibetan legislator at a press conference held on the sidelines of the country's parliamentary session in Beijing.

Railway links with adjoining countries

The only railway link China has with a neighboring country that does not have a break of gauge is with North Korea. It also has a links with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia, who all use the 1524 mm gauge and with Vietnam, where the 1000 mm gauge is still in use.

China does not have a direct rail link with Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan or Tajikistan, but is currently planning a link with Laos.

Variable gauge axle trains are sometimes used to overcome the break of gauge with neighboring countries. The mainland is also linked to the Hong Kong, but not with the Macau, which is currently being planned.

Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway, which crosses Russia, has a branch that sweeps down from Irkutsk, across Mongolia, and on to Beijing.


The Beijing Subway, which opened in 1969, has 142 km of subway track on five lines, plus an additional 98 km slated by 2010Fact|date=October 2007. The Guangzhou Metro, which opened in 1999, has 18.5 km and an additional 133 km planned. Shanghai Metro, which opened in 1995, has five lines, 95 stations, and 145 km of track, with an additional 108.4 km under construction or plannedFact|date=October 2007. The Tianjin Metro was begun in 1970 as a planned network of 153.9 km on seven lines; large sections remain closed for reconstruction, but one 26.2-km line opened for trial operations in June 2006. The Shenzhen Metro opened in 2004, initially with two lines, 19 stations, and 21.8 km of track. Also under further extensions are subway and light rail systems in Guangzhou Metro and Nanjing Metro, and systems are planned for Nanjing Metro and Qingdao Metro.

Cities that have an underground or light rail system:
*Beijing Subway originally designed and built in the 1960s
*Changchun Light Railway
*Chongqing Metro - currently only one monorail line
*Guangzhou Metro
*Nanjing Metro [ [ Subway construction official site] ]
*Shanghai Metro - designed and built in the 1990s
*Shenzhen Metro
*Tianjin Metro
*Wuhan Metro

Metro systems under construction:
*Chengdu Metro
*Harbin Metro
*Qingdao Metro
*Shenyang Metro
*Xi'an Metro

Metro outside Mainland China

*Hong Kong MTR
Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway was planned, designed, constructed and opened under British administration, it was opened in 1979 and now has six metro lines with 50 stations.

*Macau Light Transit SystemThe Macau LRT was first proposed in 2003, but final go ahead was not given until a public announcement by the Government of Macau was made in October 2006. The Macau Light Transit System will serve the Macau Peninsula, Taipa island, Cotai reclamation area and Macau International Airport.

*Taipei Rapid Transit SystemTaipei Rapid Transit System opened on March 28, 1996 with 10.5 km available, till 2006, the metro network extended to 74.4 km and 69 stations.

*Kaohsiung Mass Rapid TransitThe construction of KMRT started in October 2001, the Red Line opened on March 9, 2008, and the Orange line is expected to open in August 2008.

Maglev train

China also has the world’s second commercial maglev (magnetic levitation) train service (the first being opened at Birmingham International Airport, UK in 1984). The Chinese project was a Sino-German joint venture, 38-km long route between downtown Shanghai and the Pudong airport opened in 2003. The project cost US$1.2 billion. [ [,13026,1122916,00.html Probably the world's fastest train] ]

In 2004 the first Chinese-made maglev train made its debut in Dalian, a major port city in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. The 10.3 m long train has a top speed of just under 110 kilometers per hour. Although the cost to build was high at US$6 million per kilometer, China’s outlay was still only one-sixth of the world average.


During the war with Japan, in the 1930s, China built many roads, the most famous of which is the Burma Road that leads southwest from Kunming to the city of Lashio. Since it came into power, the Communist government initiated a large effort into building highways that extend across China and beyond its borders.

Today, China is linked by a still evolving network of roads (China National Highways) and expressways (Expressways of China). In the past few years, China has been rapidly developing its highway system. China National Highways stretch to all four corners of mainland China. Expressways reach the same destinations as China National Highways, except for the rugged terrain of Tibet. An expressway link is already at the planning stage.

In 2005 China had a total road network of more than 3.3 million km, although approximately 1.47 million km of this network are classified as "village roads". Paved roads totaled 770,265 km in 2004; the remainder were gravel, improved earth standard, or merely earth tracks.

Highways (totaling 130,000 km) were critical to China’s economic growth as it worked to mitigate a poor distribution network and authorities sought to spur economic activity directly. All major cities are expected to be linked with a 55,000 km interprovince expressway system by 2020. The highway and road systems carried nearly 11.6 billion tons of freight and 769.6 trillion passenger/kilometers in 2003.

The importance of highways and motor vehicles, which carry 13.5% of cargo and 49.1% of passengers, was growing rapidly in the mid-2000s. Road usage has increased significantly, as automobiles, including privately-owned vehicles, rapidly replace bicycles as the popular vehicle of choice in China.

In 2002, excluding military and probably internal security vehicles, there were 12 million passenger cars and buses in operation and 8.1 million other vehicles. In 2003 China reported that 23.8 million vehicles were used for business purposes, including 14.8 million passenger vehicles and 8.5 million trucks. The latest statistics from the Beijing Municipal Statistics Bureau show that Beijing had nearly 1.3 million privately-owned cars at the end of 2004 or 11 for each 100 Beijing residents. Beijing currently has the highest annual rate of private car growth in China.

US$4.25 billion was invested in Beijing’s infrastructure in 2004, and another US$22 billion will be invested before the 2008 Olympics to improve Beijing’s traffic congestion issues.

Some 270,000 km of rural highways will be built and upgraded in 2008. By comparison, 423,000 kmof countryside highways were built or upgraded in 2007, a record high. According to China's Transportation Ministry, as of the end of 2007, 98.54 percent of villages and towns had already been connected by highways.

The 2008 construction plan comprises five north-south highway trunk roads and seven east-west trunk roads and eight inter-provincial roads. Meanwhile, the central and local governments have continued to allocate funds to support the countryside highway build-up and step up construction quality supervision. [ [ China to add and upgrade 270,000 km of rural highway in 2008 - People's Daily Online ] ]


As a result of the rapidly expanding civil aviation industry, by 2007 China had around 500 airports of all types and sizes in operation, about 400 of which had paved runways and about 100 of which had runways of 3,047 m or shorter. There also were 35 heliports in 2007, an increasingly used type of facility. With the additional airports came a proliferation of airlines.


:"Further information: List of airlines in the People's Republic of China"The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), also called the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, was established as a government agency in 1949 to operate China’s commercial air fleet. In 1988 CAAC’s operational fleet was transferred to new, semiautonomous airlines and has served since as a regulatory agency.

In 2002 the government merged the nine largest airlines into three regional groups based in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, respectively: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines, which operate most of China’s external flights.

By 2005 these three had been joined by six other major airlines: Hainan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines. Together, these nine airlines had a combined fleet of some 860 aircraft, mostly Boeing from the United States and Airbus from France.

To meet growing demands for passenger and cargo capacity, in 2005 these airlines significantly expanded their fleets with orders placed for additional Boeing and Airbus aircraft expected to be delivered by 2010. In June 2006, it was announced that an Airbus A320 assembly plant would be built in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2008.

Air China owns 17.5% of Cathay Pacific (second largest shareholder) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), an administrative agency of the State Council, owns majority and controlling stakes in China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Air China.

The total number of planes of all mainland Chinese carriers combined will be near 1,580 by 2010, up from 863 in 2006. By 2025, the figure is estimated to be 4,000. [ China's fleet to double in five years] ]

The twenty seven airlines in the Chinese mainland handled 138 million passengers, and 22.17 million tons of cargo in 2005.


In 2007 China has 467 airports. Of China's major airports, Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), located 27 km northeast of central Beijing, has the greatest flow of passengers annually.

Shanghai has the 3rd largest amount of air traffic in China through its two airports combined, the Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), which is located 30 km southeast of central Shanghai, and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA), which is located 13 km west of central Shanghai. Both are under control of the Shanghai Airport Authority.

The new New Baiyun International Airport (CAN), which opened in August 2004 and is located 28 km from downtown Guangzhou.

Other major airports are located at Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Urumqi, Xiamen, and Xi’an.

China is served both by numerous major international flights to most countries of the world and a host of domestic regional airlines. Air traffic within mainland China is often connected through Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. They are, respectively, the main hubs for Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. In 2003 China’s civil aviation sector carried nearly 2.2 million tons of freight and 126.3 trillion passenger/kilometers.

Passenger flights to Taiwan and other places under administration of the Republic of China must follow special rules. Flight between Mainland China and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is considered international [ [] Accessed 2008-06-21 First sentence under Shenzhen International Airport reads "...flying from Hong Kong to the mainland is considered an international flight..." ] .

Airports with paved runways

*Total: 403
*Over 3,047 m: 58
*2,438 to 3,047 m: 128
*1,524 to 2,437 m: 130
*914 to 1,523 m: 20
*Under 914 m: 67 (2007)

Airports with unpaved runways

*Total: 64
*Over 3,047 m: 4
*2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
*1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
*914 to 1,523 m: 17
*Under 914 m: 26 (2007)

Ports and shipping

China has more than 2,000 ports, 130 of which are open to foreign ships. The major ports, including river ports accessible by ocean-going ships, are Beihai, Dalian, Dandong, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hankou, Huangpu, Jiujiang, Lianyungang, Nanjing, Nantong, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Rizhao, Sanya, Shanghai, Shantou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Weihai, Wenzhou, Xiamen, Xingang, Yangzhou, Yantai, and Zhanjiang.

China has sixteen "major" shipping ports with a capacity of over 50 million tons per year. Combined China’s total shipping capacity is in excess of 2,890 million tons. By 2010, 35% of the world’s shipping is expected to originate from China. The seven largest port terminals are Dalian, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai. Additionally, Hong Kong is a major international port serving as an important trade center for China. In 2005 Shanghai Port Management Department reported that its Shanghai port became the world’s largest cargo port, processing cargo topping 443 million tons and surpassing Singapore’s port. The Port of Shanghai is presently undergoing significant upgrades. Shanghai Model Port Alliance is responsible for many of the upgrades that are expected to make Shanghai’s port more automated, minimizing the loss of goods and time while helping Customs collect more accurate tariffs. If the Shanghai project is successful, there is interest in replicating the process in other Chinese ports.

As of 2004, China’s merchant fleet had 3,497 ships. Of these, 1,700 ships of GRT|1,000|metric|first=yes or more totaled 20.4 million tons. Ships by type: barge carrier 2, bulk carrier 325, cargo ship 840, chemical tanker 21, combination bulk carrier 11, combination ore/oil 1, container ship 125, liquified gas 20, multi-functional large load carrier 5, passenger ship 8, passenger/cargo ship 46, petroleum tanker 251, refrigerated cargo ship 24, roll-on/roll-off 21, short-sea passenger 43, specialized tanker 2, vehicle carrier 1 (1999 est.)

In 2003 China’s major coastal ports handled 2.1 billion tons of freight.

As of 2007, China’s merchant fleet had 1,775 ships (GRT|1000|metric or over) GRT|22,219,786|metric/DWT|33,819,636|metric|first=yesby type: barge carrier 3, bulk carrier 415, cargo ship 689, carrier 3, chemical tanker 62, combination ore/oil 2, container ship 157, liquefied gas 35, passenger 8, passenger/cargo ship 84, petroleum tanker 250, refrigerated cargo ship 33, roll-on/roll-off 9, specialized tanker 8, vehicle carrier 17.

*foreign-owned: 12 (Ecuador 1, Greece 1, Hong Kong 6, Japan 2, South Korea 1, Norway 1) (2007)
*registered in other countries: 1,366 (Bahamas 9, Bangladesh 1, Belize 107, Bermuda 10, Bolivia 1, Cambodia 166, Cyprus 10, France 5, Georgia 4, Germany 2, Honduras 3, Hong Kong 309, India 1, Indonesia 2, Liberia 32, Malaysia 1, Malta 13, Marshall Islands 3, Mongolia 3, Norway 47, Panama 473, Philippines 2, Sierra Leone 8, Singapore 19, St Vincent and The Grenadines 106, Thailand 1, Turkey 1, Tuvalu 25, unknown 33) (2007)


China has more than 140,000 kilometers of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, and canals, and in 2003 these inland waterways carried nearly 1.6 trillion tons of freight and 6.3 trillion passenger/kilometers to more than 5,100 inland ports.

The main navigable rivers are the Heilong Jiang; Yangtze River; Xiang River, a short branch of the Yangtze; Pearl River; Huangpu River; Lijiang River; and Xi Jiang.

Ships of up to 10,000 tons can navigate more than 1,000 km on the Yangtze as far as Wuhan. Ships of 1,000 tons can navigate from Wuhan to Chongqing, another 1,286 km upstream. The Grand Canal is the world’s longest canal at 1,794 km and serves 17 cities between Beijing and Hangzhou. It links five major rivers: the Haihe, Huaihe, Huanghe, Qiantang, and Yangtze.


As of 2006, China had 22,664 km of gas pipelines, 15,256 km of oil pipelines, and 6,106 km for refined products.

China’s pipelines carried 219.9 million tons of petroleum and natural gas in 2003. As a major oil and gas consumer, China is searching for more external supples. Construction of a 4,200-km-long pipeline from Xinjiang to Shanghai (West-East Gas Pipeline) was completed in 2004. The government hopes that the use of natural gas will assist to reduce the use of coal which is responsible for much air pollution.

ee also


External links

* [ China rail network]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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