We passed rows of new apartment buildings on the outskirts of Beijing. Roller coaster into a tunnel 1,400 feet below The Great Wall of China, and rises above a plain where the 110-foot blades of hundreds of wind turbines tower over rows of newly planted pines.
This is the panorama passing on a high-speed train from Beijing to Mount Taizicheng, the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics, and like the Olympics themselves, this 50-minute journey is designed to cause impressed with a story of China’s progress.
Journalists covering the Games were escorted from the hotel to the media center to the sport venue by special buses, taxis and wagons, in line with China’s zero-Covid strategy of being Try to remove the infection. Unable to venture around, we gazed out of our sealed windows, craving the sights of life, especially on the roughly 110-mile train line to Taizicheng, near where many skiing events take place.
While China has managed to wow a global audience with its gold medal count, it has also used these Games to advance its broader economic, environmental and technological ambitions. . The high-speed rail line is a focus, embodying some of the goals China’s Communist Party leaders have promised: urban growth, clean energy and less pollution, and – above all – order Perfect, on time.
However, the scenery along the route also offers a glimpse into the industrial and rural past China wants to escape: a village where horses work in the fields, or a factory withdrawn gutted and abandoned.
The scattered checkpoints on the railway line are testament to the security concerns of the Chinese government, even in remote villages. We pass through small protective outposts set up to ensure that the Olympics are free of threats.
Our ride began at Qinghe Station in northern Beijing, where staff in blue uniforms, protective masks and goggles ushered us into the Olympic-only waiting area and then board the train “Snow Dream”.
For China’s leaders, the high-speed rail expansion is a source of national pride and considerable expense. This routes from Beijing to nearby Taizicheng and Zhangjiakoubuilt for the Winter Olympics, has official total cost nearly 10 billion dollars. Even on ordinary high-speed trains in China, the flight attendants display neat discipline – perfect posture, neat uniform – and that’s all the more true on this route.
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The train journey, like the Olympic venues, was devoid of the massive propaganda billboards of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that are common across the country today. But the message that China’s success is due to Mr. Xi and the Communist Party echoes in the Chinese-language slogans on the announcement screens in the carriages.
Xi said that by the end of 2019, the high-speed rail link to the Winter Olympics venues will “see a leap in China’s overall national strength”.
A few minutes from Beijing, we were lost in the darkness of a 7.5-mile tunnel dug from a granite hill. We are below a section of the Great Wall, the network of fortifications that emperors built over the centuries to keep out invaders. Railways need a straight line to run fast – no sharp turns or drops – and Chinese world leading engineer in the construction of tunnels and bridges through hills and valleys.
Five minutes into daylight, the sky was a light blue and the fields of snow were white recently. Ten years ago, the sky was most likely a smoky gray-brown this time of year, dyed by pollution from industry and heating. We are drawing closer to Hebei province, long home to coal mills, steel mills and fume factories that neighboring Beijing no longer wants.
However, now the province is trying to reduce polluting industries, and the railway line is set against the backdrop of China’s clean energy future. Dozens of wind turbines have been erected near Guanting Reservoir, which supplied Beijing with potable water until agricultural and industrial pollution made the water undrinkable. Solar panels cover the lower swaths of nearby hillsides.
China has promised a “green” Olympics, and power companies that fulfill that vow have ensured that visitors can see their efforts in action from train windows.
Now on the flattest stretch of the journey, the train sped up: 207, 209 and then 211 miles per hour, the bulletin board in front of the carriage said. It is slightly slower than the top speed of 217 miles (350 km) an hour that engineers say the train can achieve. Perhaps the recent snowfall means caution is needed.
Highway ribbons and high-voltage power lines also crisscross the countryside, and the high-speed lines sometimes run parallel to the tracks for six other trains. China’s leaders for three decades have invested heavily in railways and other infrastructure to spur growth and connect the country as a coherent whole. The current leader, Mr. Xi, has accelerated that effort.
But we also passed through the countryside where horses and donkeys still worked in the fields. More than a third of Chinese people live in the country by official measures; Actual number may be higher. For many of them, life remains difficult, without the social safety nets and opportunities of urban dwellers.
The faces that pass by are often older. Very few villagers in their 20s or 30s remained in this land. Many moved to towns of new five- and six-story apartments jutting out of the countryside, as if an official had dabbed his finger on a map and ordered “The city is here!”
A decade ago, it was possible that a foreign reporter would come to one of the towns along the route and talk to the people.
Today, with Covid restrictions on journalists covering the Olympics, we can’t ask them directly about the changes brought about by the Olympics and bullet trains. Even before Covid spread in 2020, it became increasingly difficult to report in China; Officials and police often hunt down visiting reporters, or warn people not to speak.
In phone interviews, residents who live near the railway line say they feel proud of the new bullet train and the Olympics, but also aloof from the hustle and bustle.
Xiu Li, who runs a fish and donkey meat restaurant in Donghuayuan, a town near the line, said: “The expressway has not affected business, as the two-year pandemic has made it complicated in China. everywhere. . “I watched some of the Winter Olympics but didn’t pay special attention – just watched it when it was on TV.”
The train started running up the mountain. We passed through another tunnel – one of eight on the journey – and reached high ground, which is often barren brown at this time of year. The announcement said we were going to Taizicheng.
A crew of cleaners – each covered from head to toe in protective white suits – are waiting to board and disinfect the vessel before its next voyage.
Liu Yi research contributions.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/world/asia/china-fast-train-olympics.html China’s fast train, an Olympic highlight