Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Free Tibet by Train!
June 29, 2006 7:27 AM   Subscribe

The Chinese Embassy announced today that the world's highest railroad is to go into operation on July 1st. By the way, here's some striking pictures of it all. It also comes with its own Great Green Wall and some problems. Shanghai to Lhasa? Yep.
posted by Atreides (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
In all those links I'm surprised there's no map of the rail route.
posted by chef_boyardee at 7:45 AM on June 29, 2006


Hrm. I had thought that it was accessible in one of those links.

Here's one that was attached as a link to the Wikipedia article.

There's also a regional map on the second link, as well, at the top on the right.
posted by Atreides at 7:51 AM on June 29, 2006


Thanks for the link! I can add this to my list of reasons to visit China some day.
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2006


Excellent post. I highly recommend the "problems" link, which is far better written than you'd expect an embassy report to be. Summary:

The Chinese media have reported extensively on numerous environmental protection measures planned as part of the construction of the 1,142-kilometer Golmud to Lhasa railway. A first-hand look shows that measures taken to address anticipated problems such as permafrost damage and poaching have (so far at least) basically succeeded.

But other unforeseen problems have arisen, including simple matters like garbage disposal. These problems may remain unanswered unless the authorities assign clearer responsibility for dealing with them. In the long run, once the railway is completed, the key to protecting the region's fragile environment from direct human damage will be tightly controlling the number of eco-tourists allowed off the trains.

Meanwhile, the railway's construction has the potential to introduce HIV/AIDS to the hitherto unaffected Tibet Autonomous Region.

posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2006


Wow. The inaccessible and mysterious Tibet Tibetan Autonomous Region just became mainstream.
posted by uni verse at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2006


This is a key part of Bejing's killing the idea of Tibet.

Just as Xinjiang has been open to the Han heartland by rail and now that the Turkamen and Uyghur are now minorities in thier own former homelands, so now it is Tibet's turn. This is a continued expression of the historical destiny of the Han, proceeding for at least two millennia, migrating west and south.
posted by bonehead at 8:32 AM on June 29, 2006


Michael Palin's Himalaya series (disc 2) covers this a bit ... I netflixed it earlier this month.

The wordsmithing from the official PR: "which makes up about one eighth of China's territory and was the only provincial area without a single inch of operating rail route." was a bit odd to me...

google-fight:

"single inch of road": 4
"single foot of road": 4
"single yard of road": 1
"single mile of road": 102
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2006


I agree with bonehead's judgement on the railway. Incidentally, as much as people may lamblast the Communists for their invasion and incorporation of Tibet under their control, back in the 1940's, Chiang Kai-shek had very much the same plan in mind for the rooftop country. I suppose if you want to blame anyone, blame the Qing Dynasty.
posted by Atreides at 8:45 AM on June 29, 2006


This is a continued expression of the historical destiny of the Han

Manifest Destiny, baby.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:46 AM on June 29, 2006


Exactly manifest destiny.

The "Chinese", or better, the enthic grouping of the Han, have a sense that owning this part of the world is their destiny. It's as strong as Jewish zionism. The language that Bejing uses, that Tibet is a "historical part" of China is rooted in this sentiment.
posted by bonehead at 8:52 AM on June 29, 2006


Fascinating post.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:03 AM on June 29, 2006


Yes, everything China does is about Tibet. Sigh.
posted by skallas at 9:15 AM on June 29, 2006


Yes, everything China does is about Tibet. Sigh.

WTF? Are you claiming that a railroad to Tibet is somehow not "about Tibet"? Or are you so bored with the subject of Tibet that you think no links about it should be posted?
posted by languagehat at 9:43 AM on June 29, 2006


Yes, everything China does is about Tibet.

That's backwards. Everything China does is about China. The current expansion in Xinjiang province probably occupies more mind-share in the Bejing leadership than Tibet does. Like Xinjiang, however, the leadership wants Tibet ifor resource extraction. The cultural extinction of the native Tibetians is just a byproduct, like the extinction of the Cherokee was to the settlers in Georgia.
posted by bonehead at 10:02 AM on June 29, 2006


Regardless of the policies of China that is some beautiful engineering. I love that bridge.
posted by Mitheral at 10:06 AM on June 29, 2006


This is a continued expression of the historical destiny of the Han, proceeding for at least two millennia, migrating west and south.

It goes back farther than that, doesn't it? There have been at least three Chinese migrations, one of which became the basis of the Polynesians, and others of which displaced ancient peoples in Indochina. And there was that Mongol thing. Meanwhile, there is pressure on Siberia, which is losing its Russian population and if immigration were open might become Chinese in a generation. I suspect that even if Tibet were independent there would be Chinese migration.

For me the greater issue is Tibetan political oppression, which is even greater than that faced by the rest of China. At least this railroad promises some economic relief.
posted by dhartung at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2006


Well sure, perhaps 5000 years depending on which histories you take seriously.

I don't know about relief from the railway. It looks to me like a way of increasing the rate of sinoization of Tibet, not providing an escape route.
posted by bonehead at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2006


I heard some said that one main purpose of building this transportation backbone is to move military troops quickly into Tibet in case of any up-rising.
posted by TurkeyWalk at 12:34 PM on June 29, 2006


All issues of Tibetan autonomy aside, that is a gorgeous bridge.
posted by feersum endjinn at 1:46 PM on June 29, 2006


Expect to see this train packed full of Chinese soldiers whenever the Tibetans get uppity.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:20 PM on June 29, 2006


I suppose at this point my joke about shipping a giant last nail for Tibet's coffin is a bit ironic.
posted by fleacircus at 2:54 PM on June 29, 2006


Highest train? No way.

The worlds highest train is the Amsterdam inner city light rail.

Ba-dap-bum.
posted by tkchrist at 3:06 PM on June 29, 2006


This is a continued expression of the historical destiny of the Han

Wiki claims that non-Han get exemption from the one child policy. I think China's reasons for this project are more subtle than racism.
posted by gsteff at 7:48 PM on June 29, 2006


Yes the chinese have the manpower and technical knowhow to do it !
posted by chrisranjana.com at 9:40 PM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Some more pretty pictures. I don't know if this has been mentioned already, but apparently, the bogies will be heremetically sealed to maintain sea-level atmospheric pressure.

Politically curious, the death of romance, but certainly exciting in an engineering sense.
posted by the cydonian at 11:05 PM on June 29, 2006


Crap, sorry, wrong link.
posted by the cydonian at 11:06 PM on June 29, 2006


I didn't see anything about the motive power source. What's it going to be -- turbodiesel-electric? Non-turbocharged internal combustion engines tend to stop running or at least stop making much power at 15,000 feet.
posted by surlycat at 2:42 AM on June 30, 2006


I hope you realize that a person just can't pick up and go to Tibet from China. You must have special visas that are somewhat difficult to obtain. As someone living in China right now, plus a holiday week coming up, I am going to attempt to take this train.
posted by meanie at 3:01 AM on June 30, 2006


Nice engineering achievement, it shows they learned well. Now what if this turns to be a cathedral in the desert ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:59 AM on June 30, 2006


I doubt it will turn to such an end. What will happen is that it will become probably the cheapest and quickest means to ship things into Tibet. I don't think it will do anything less than serve as an economic boost. Its the equivalent of building a bridge to an island that previously was only reachable by boat or ferry.
posted by Atreides at 5:06 AM on June 30, 2006


>Regardless of the policies of China that is some beautiful engineering. I love that bridge.

>All issues of Tibetan autonomy aside, that is a gorgeous bridge.

You shoulda seen the railway bridge that carried the trains to Auschwitz! All Nazi Death factory issues aside - whata work of art!
posted by Blue Stone at 4:22 PM on June 30, 2006


« Older The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled President Bu...  |  The RSOE Global Disasters Serv... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments