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January 8th, 2010, 12:54 PM
NEW CBD SET TO EMERGE IN WEST CHANGCHUN
6 January 2010
Founded a year ago - on December 29, 2008 - the Western New Town Development Zone is among the newest commercial sites in Changchun.
Despite its fledgling status, the zone has already proved its appeal to financiers who are keen to invest in Changchun, the capital of the northeastern Jilin province, and one of the famous cultural cities in northeast Asia.
According to Wang Tingkai, head of the government of the Liuyuan district, the new complex benefits from being the proposed site for the Changchun Western Passenger Railway Station and from neighboring China's largest automobile manufacturing base, the Changchun Automobile Industrial Park.
Work began on the new station in September and is scheduled for completion in 2011.
Wang said the new railway station will establish the zone as a major transportation hub within Jilin and will act as a gateway to the whole of northeast China. Once completed, the station will provide access to a number of high-speed lines linking Harbin and Dalian and Harbin and Beijing.
Once operational, it will take only four hours to travel between Changchun and Beijing, three hours between Changchun and Dalian and one hour between Changchun, Shenyang and Harbin.
The development zone is also adjacent to a number of well-known local businesses, including the First Auto Works, the largest automaker in China, the Dacheng Group, the largest corn processing enterprise in Asia and the fourth largest in world, the Haoyue Group, the nation's largest beef processing company and the Changchun Railway Vehicles Co Ltd.
Wang said: "Such industrial giants will have a huge demand for ancillary businesses to provide equipment, spare parts and related services."
The western CBD
Wang said that the development zone now has a detailed development plan in place, with the aim of ultimately establishing the zone as the western central business district (CBD) of Changchun.
Outlining its appeal, Wang said: "Highlighting the modern service industries and its excellent environment, the western CBD will be a suitable place for both business and residential purposes. With a number of business facilities, including office buildings, under construction, the zone will also be the ideal site for both international and local companies to establish their regional headquarters."
Changchun is located at the geographic center of northeast China. The Western New Town Development Zone is expected to make use of this geographical advantage to develop a business hub serving any company looking to access the potentially huge northeastern market.
With regard to environmental improvements, Wang said the zone is committed to investing in a major upgrade to its water resources, currently served by the Tongxin Lake, the Xinglong Lake and the Daliutun Reservoir. Plans are also in place to plant more trees and increase the grass coverage in parks and along the roadsides.
On the infrastructure front, the local government has earmarked funds for the construction of a new light railway, an enhanced subway network and major additions to the road network.
According to Wang, the zone will encompass a 13 sq km development stretching from the Western Third Ring Road in the east, the Western Fourth Ring Road in the west, Zili West Street in the south and the Haoyue Road to the north.
Six functional areas
Wang said the zone will be composed of six functional areas - a transportation hub, a business area by the railway station, an office complex, an information industry area, a tourism center and a residential area.
The transportation hub will include the 220,000 sq m Changchun Western Passenger Railway Station and other access points, including roads, subways and light railways.
The business area will focus on finance, shopping, catering, entertainment and consultation sectors.
The office complex will be located on Jingyang Avenue, the east-west axis of both Changchun and the development zone. With facilities such as serviced offices, exhibition and convention venues and high-end hotels, this will be the core of the city's CBD and an ideal site for any company's regional headquarters.
The information industry area, also adjacent to the railway station, will highlight the design, research and development, exhibition, marketing and hi-tech products sectors.
The tourism zone, on the banks of the Xinglong Lake, will offer a number of leisure facilities, including bars, restaurants, museums and galleries.
A range of high-end residential facilities will be built near the Xinglong and Tongxin lakes, complete with a raft of service facilities, notably hospitals, schools and shops.
According to Wang, construction of the major infrastructure facilities in the zone will be completed within two years. As a number of multinationals and famous domestic companies establish their operations there, it is expected to achieve its full potential as a business and residential center within eight years.
October 19th, 2010, 08:01 AM
Left standing by China's bullet trains
26 August 2010
The Sydney Morning Herald
The building of Sydney's new trains is a sideshow on the Chinese factory floor, writes John Garnaut in Changchun.
Three years ago China had planned to lay 13,000 kilometres of high-speed railway by 2020, which would be more than the rest of the world combined.
Then the global financial crisis intruded and Beijing brought that 2020 deadline forward by eight years, while redefining "high speed" to mostly mean faster than 350 km/h, rather than 250.
China's bullet train project is as ambitious and potentially nation-changing as the 19th century railways that opened up the US. Already it has created millions of jobs, pushing up wages for the country's long-struggling workers, and sucked in tens of millions of tonnes of Australian iron ore to produce the high-tensile steel for tunnels, bridges and track.
One of the 42 new lines, on which construction began in 2008, will begin zipping passengers over 1300 kilometres and across 244 highly-engineered bridges between Beijing and Shanghai in just four hours from next year. Another is already taking passengers 114 kilometres from Beijing to Tianjin in less than 30 minutes.
The World Bank describes China's leap as "the biggest single planned program of passenger rail investment there has ever been in one country". And, unlike in many countries, it says fast rail in China has been well-planned and makes economic sense. Last month the country's long distance trains carried 160 million passengers, 18 million more than the previous July.
China's provincial backwater cities are being dragged into the world economy. Rail space is opening up for freight, taking the burden off the roads and, with any luck, reducing the regularity of events like the four-week old, 100 kilometre traffic jam of coal trucks that is now stuck north-west of Beijing.
Lu Xiwei, the general manager of China Railway Vehicles Co, is working around the clock to put rolling stock on all that new track.
"I never have even one day's rest a year," says Mr Lu at his sprawling factory headquarters in Changchun, yet another booming city of 5 million people in the country's far north. "In 365 days I can guarantee I work 364."
Downer EDI's $3.8 billion contract (via a separate finance vehicle) to supply and maintain 78 double-decker, eight-carriage Waratah trains to Sydney's RailCorp was seven times bigger than any train order that the listed engineering firm had previously handled. Downer subcontracted the 624 train car shells and undercarriage "bogies" to China Railway because it could not justify building a huge workshop for what may be a one-off contract.
China Railway erected a purpose-built 9000 square metre factory in just seven months. That, says an awestruck manager, "is the time it would take in Australia to get building approvals". And yet that 360 metre long facility is one small dot on the map of China Railway's sprawling train building empire.
At the signing in 2006 - after the NSW Labor government had spent 13 years promising and unpromising a 14 kilometre rail link from Parramatta to Epping - the Waratah trains were a huge political matter for NSW and a prestigious contract for China Railway. No Chinese train company had ever won an export contract to the developed world before. Only last month Australia's ambassador in Beijing, Geoff Raby, told the Communist Party secretary of Jilin province that the world would be watching how China performed.
Mr Lu, the general manager at China Railway, says he values the Australian project experience and it remains a priority. But the money involved would seem to barely justify such status.
Mr Lu reveals he will receive just $150 million from Downer for building the stainless steel car bodies and undercarriages, given that higher value components are imported from elsewhere. That's $240,000 for each Australian carriage compared with the $4.7 million Mr Lu receives for each finished bullet train carriage.
"For €5 billion [$7.1 billion] I have to build 1500 high speed cars in three years , by 2013," Mr Lu says. "And that's not all, there will be more."
Mr Lu has built a huge factory complex to house his bullet trains on the outskirts of Changchun. Here, it quickly becomes clear that Australian concerns about China's train-building competence are wide of the mark.
Liu Lihui, who manages the bullet train aluminium fabrication plant, wears plastic shower caps on the soles of his shoes to keep the polished concrete sufficiently pristine for train carriages to glide around on air-cushioned platforms. These hoverlifts reduce the need for roof-hanging cranes, he says, which reduces the number of roof-supporting pillars, which maximises the space available. Nevertheless, despite making the most of the space he has, once he has doubled production to two cars a day he will then build another two identical workshops, each 180 metres wide and 1.6 kilometres long.
"High speed rail is the top priority of the Ministry of Rail and this reflects the priorities of the people and the state," Liu says. "All of us at China Railway devote ourselves."
China Railway Vehicles is technically owned by another arm of the state but it is the Ministry of Railways that makes its executives jump. The ministry exemplifies China's unrivalled political capacity to marshal resources and march the country towards a common objective to get extraordinary things done. It is the only line ministry that gives itself the power to issue its own government bonds, even though it has no trouble persuading state-owned banks to lend to projects.
"High speed and mass transport trains are good for the environment, save a lot of energy and promote industry," Lu says. "It's very easy to get money from the banks."
The ministry employs 2.5 million people, and has its own police force and courts, with People's Liberation Army officers stationed at every bureau. Power and money are channelled throughout the railway empire and beyond through invisible patronage networks. Last year the ministry successfully killed efforts by the top leadership to dilute its power within an integrated "super-ministry" of transport.
But the flipside of all that concentrated power to produce and control hardware is recurrent glitches with the software.
China's new trains are exceedingly comfortable, they all tend to depart and arrive on time and passenger utilisation rates are among the highest in the world. But, for an ordinary person, obtaining a ticket can be a nightmare. At peak periods like Chinese New Year - when 200 million migrant workers and family members struggle to get home - tickets mysteriously disappear inside the Ministry of Railways and reappear in the hands of scalpers outside the ticketing offices.
The Minister of Railways, Liu Zhijun, has personally championed the visionary high-speed rail network and has proven himself a prodigious fund-raiser and defender of his own bureaucratic interests. Less well known is the fact that Liu rose up through the Wuhan rail bureaucracy together with a brother, Liu Zhijun.
Liu Zhijun was promoted to minister in 2003. Then in 2006 his brother, Liu Zhixiang, was jailed for arranging a knife murder. Police raided his home and confiscated the equivalent of $5 million in cash, relating to a ticket-scalping racket.
In Changchun it is clear the railway ministry deems building bullet trains for China to be a national priority in a way that catering for Sydney's long-suffering commuters is not.
Downer EDI never expected to have to train so many tradespeople - steel welding, laying rubber flooring, mixing graffiti-proof paint and installing vandal-proof windows - only to find some of those workers vanish from the workshop to other corners of the China Railway empire.
Mr Lu, the China Railway general manager, denies that staff trained for the Australian project are being siphoned off to the bullet train plant - although a Downer executive standing next to him pre-empted that answer by vigorously shaking his head - but he concedes that the sheer scale of expansion is a challenge.
"You have enough labour but that doesn't mean you have enough skilled labour," Mr Lu says. "Wages are rising 10 per cent a year; that's a very heavy burden."
The competition for finite labour and management focus causes tension between the Australian and Chinese parties.
Downer EDI is accustomed to having a set number of workers on each job, partly to manage worker fatigue. But workers at China Railway typically start at 8am and finish at 10pm and are paid according to what they produce.
"In China we don't think how many people are working on a task, we think finish the task," Lu says.
The Waratah trains are already running eight months late and costs are blowing out. The troubles have already cost Downer three chief executives, two chairmen and a $190 million write-down.
That $190 million breaks down into three roughly equal parts: rising wages and unforseen engineering costs, rising materials costs (caused by runaway Chinese demand) and late penalties issued by RailCorp. RailCorp's 19,000 engineering inquiries have not helped.
The 78 Waratah trains for Sydney seem jammed between RailCorp in NSW and its enormous cousin in China, the Ministry of Railways. The two companies, Downer EDI and China Railways, are learning to be flexible, which often means leaving formal notices and contractual details on the shelf.
Peter Reichler, the group ventures chief executive for Downer, is confident that Sydney commuters will be travelling on the first Chinese-made trains by the end of this year and, "on the balance of probabilities", the last train will be on the line on time in 2013.
"It's like the United Nations of rail here," he says, referring to China Railway's multitude of domestic and global contracts and technology joint ventures.
"One of our challenges will be to hang on to them rather than the other way around," he says.
April 6th, 2011, 11:03 AM
Forced demolition death sparks an investigation
31 March 2011
AUTHORITIES in northeast China's Changchun City are investigating the death of a woman who was buried under debris after several hundred thugs carried out a forced demolition of her home late at night.
Police didn't respond to her family's call for help until 36 hours later and she was dead by the time officers arrived, Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.
Liu Shuxiang, 50, was buried under the rubble of a collapsed building when dozens of excavators and several hundred gangsters holding sticks torn down 14 dormitory buildings of Changchun Film Studio on March 26 in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province.
Some residents were dragged out of the buildings by the thugs, who didn't have enough time to remove Liu from her apartment. The demolitions continued until 4am on March 27 when the thugs left, the report said.
Liu's relatives phoned her after the demolition started and urged her to get out as soon as possible. But Liu only said, "I got stuck in here," before the phone call was cut off, the report said.
Liu's husband called police at 2am on March 27, but they didn't arrive until 2pm the next day. Liu's body was removed two hours later.
Officers at the local police station told the newspaper they weren't aware of the incident or the victim.
Changchun Xinke Real Estate Development Co assigned a firm to carry out the demolition. The company proceeded without government approval, China National Radio reported on Tuesday.
August 18th, 2011, 08:38 AM
NE China city to build infrastructure to encourage purchase of clean-energy cars
CHANGCHUN, July 8 (Xinhua) -- The city of Changchun, known as China's "auto city", is planning to build charging facilities to encourage people to purchase electric clean-energy automobiles.
Two battery-swapping stations, five charging bays and 800 charging posts will be installed by the end of this year, according to Xiao Wanmin, the city's deputy mayor.
The city also announced the start of a trial subsidy program for electric vehicles on Friday, under which people who purchase electric vehicles will be able to receive subsidies from the central government.
Changchun, the capital city of Jilin Province, is one of five cities that will encourage the purchase of clean-energy vehicles under a trial program launched by the central government, according to a circular issued last June by the ministries of finance, science and technology, industrial and information technology and the National Development and Reform Commission.
The other four cites are Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Hefei.
According to the circular, people who buy electric vehicles will be eligible for subsidies of no more than 60,000 yuan (9,280 U.S. dollars) each.
October 11th, 2011, 11:46 AM
Demolitions turn deadly
Updated: 2011-09-30 09:14
Demolition is often touted as an essential tool for urbanization and development. But in China, forced demolitions are no longer immune from public angst and come with harsh government strictures, as a recent incident in Northeast China shows.
In September Cui Jie, the mayor of Changchun in Jilin province, was ordered to tender a public apology after a local resident was buried in debris of torn-down buildings during a forced demolition in March this year.
On Sept 9, during a meeting of four ministries and central government agencies it was revealed that there were nearly 11 demolition cases in China in which people were killed or had committed suicide. By making the mayor apologize for his actions, the authorities wanted to send a clear signal that such actions will no longer go unchecked.
On March 24, a local property company in Changchun hired a demolition agency to tear down homes of more than 170 local residents to make room for a commercial property. Hundreds of people came to drive the residents out of their homes and tear down the buildings with 18 bulldozers.
Liu Shuxiang, 48, did not have time to get out of her home and was buried in the debris. Her family members called the hotlines of the mayor and police. Police arrived 50 minutes after the call while the local government received a call two hours later from the mayor's office. Liu had already suffocated to death by then and her body was recovered two days later, according to a report from People's Daily.
A China Central Television report in the past several days had indicated that despite the government order the mayor was yet to tender the apology. But a subsequent Xinhua News Agency report later clarified that Cui had apologized to Changchun citizens for mishandling the demolition work. The report said Cui had already apologized in an article published in the official Changchuan Daily on Aug 8.
At the same time as the Changchun tragedy has been receiving publicity, the government has been showing its seriousness by punishing over 57 officials in 11 cases of forced demolition that led to death or injury during the first six months of this year.
Among those punished was an official at the vice-provincial level, the authorities said in a statement on Sept 25. Of the 57 officials, 31 have also been investigated by the judicial department for criminal offenses.
The government has indicated that actions against officials involved in the cases of forced demolition include warnings, suspension from positions and expulsion from the Party.
"The punishment, or the administrative accountability, will be more severe for officials. It shows the government's determination to tackle the issue," says Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
In January, the State Council published a regulation on the expropriation of, and compensation for, houses on State-owned land. All the 11 cases involving forced demolition occurred after the regulation was issued. The regulation stipulates that demolishers must apply to the court first and then the due process, including public hearings and the offer of fair compensation, needs to be followed before the demolition.
"Violent demolition is a source of social conflict between the local government and residents, and triggers negative sentiment among the public," Zhu says.
Zhang Feng, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, feels that the government needs to give more importance to the issue.
August 13th, 2012, 08:21 AM
CNR to build carbon steel vehicle production line
Updated: 2012-08-09 21:30
CHANGCHUN - The construction of a rail vehicle manufacturing base and its affiliated parts manufacturing companies was launched on Thursday in Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin province.
With an investment of over 1 billion yuan (about $162 million), the base is expected to become China's most advanced carbon steel rail vehicle production line upon its completion. It will be able to produce 600 new carbon steel vehicles, maintain 120 electric multiple units (EMU) and another 700 high-end rail vehicles, said an official with the Changchun Railway Vehicles Co Ltd of China North Vehicle (CNR).
The construction is the second phase of the relocation project of Changchun Railway Vehicles Facilities Co Ltd, and is expected to be completed in two years.
October 13th, 2012, 03:35 AM
Photo taken on Oct. 10, 2012 shows the outdoor scene of the Changchun West Railway Station, a stop of the new Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province. China on Oct. 8 showcased the world's first alpine high-speed rail line, which threads through the country's three northeastern provinces. The new high-speed railway is expected to reduce travel time between Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and Dalian, a city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, to four hours. The weather-proof CRH380B bullet trains serving the line can accomodate temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius above zero. The rail line, featuring 24 stations, is expected to go into normal operation by the end of the year. (Xinhua/Lin Hong)
Photo taken on Oct. 10, 2012 shows the underground transit hall of the Changchun West Railway Station, a stop of the new Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province. China on Oct. 8 showcased the world's first alpine high-speed rail line, which threads through the country's three northeastern provinces. The new high-speed railway is expected to reduce travel time between Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and Dalian, a city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, to four hours. The weather-proof CRH380B bullet trains serving the line can accomodate temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius above zero. The rail line, featuring 24 stations, is expected to go into normal operation by the end of the year. (Xinhua/Lin Hong)
Photo taken on Oct. 10, 2012 shows the indoor scene of the Changchun West Railway Station, a stop of the new Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway, in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province. China on Oct. 8 showcased the world's first alpine high-speed rail line, which threads through the country's three northeastern provinces. The new high-speed railway is expected to reduce travel time between Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, and Dalian, a city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, to four hours. The weather-proof CRH380B bullet trains serving the line can accomodate temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius above zero. The rail line, featuring 24 stations, is expected to go into normal operation by the end of the year. (Xinhua/Lin Hong)