- Infrastructure expansion increases rail debts
- Mind reading against pornography – and against criticism?
- Estonia and Latvia leave 16+1
- Scholz warns against dependencies
- Report: Xi Jinping to visit Saudi Arabia
- Pelosi warns against military presence near Taiwan
- Court rules against MeToo accuser
- Johnny Erling on creatively outsmarting censorship
When a company is organized as a private enterprise but acts on behalf of the state, it almost inevitably finds itself in a quandary. Decisions that are good for business rarely coincide with the needs of the common good and other political demands. A particularly apparent example is the Chinese railroad company, China Rail. The company’s tasks include: Stimulating the economy in remote regions, training young people, providing eco-friendly mobility, and achieving high punctuality. But making profits is not one of them. The state-owned company is already groaning under a debt of almost €1 trillion and continues to build unprofitable lines in the countryside, writes our team in Beijing.
“Thoughts are free” – perhaps the lyrics of this old German song will need to be rewritten in the future. Being able to read information from human brains is not only a common plot element in science fiction stories. It would also be the absolute dream of authoritarian systems. It would make it possible to detect critical thoughts before they can be expressed or result in actions. Preventive detention would certainly contribute exceptionally to social stability. China has run the first tests of machine mind-reading on students watching pornography, writes Frank Sieren. But every new technology starts simple.
17+1 became 16+1, and now, in one fell swoop, 14+1. Estonia and Latvia have left China’s East and Central Europe Roundtable after Lithuania led the way last year. It’s a blow to Chinese foreign policy that shows how much the world has moved on in the past five years. At the time, there was a perception that Beijing’s foreign policy was poaching at the EU’s eastern border.
Today, the number 14 evokes unfavorable associations with the word yàosǐ 要死, which is pronounced the same way – it literally means “must die,” and is also used in the sense of “extraordinary, terrible.” This is also not a good omen for Eastern and Central European cooperation. Chinese love such plays of words and take them seriously. Today, Johnny Erling describes how the net citizens dupe the censors through the creative use of characters.
China Railway heads for €1 trillion in debt
Unlike in Germany, anyone traveling by high-speed train in China these days need not fear ending up on an overcrowded train. Because the strict Covid measures have made every trip an almost incalculable risk, people prefer to stay where they are. Even between Shanghai and Beijing, there were much fewer passengers – although this connection has been one of the few profitable railroad lines.
In the first half of the year, the track made a loss for the first time. Against the background of the lockdown in Shanghai, this is no surprise. According to the Chinese business magazine Caixin, the loss amounted to the equivalent of around €150 million. Nationwide, train traffic also declined recently. According to official figures, only 787 million Chinese traveled by train in the first half of the year – a drop of 42 percent year on year.
Declining passenger volumes are now exacerbating a long-standing dilemma. New railroad construction primarily serves the overarching goals of economic policy. The state orders the projects. Goals regarding the return on investment are not only secondary, they are simply non-existent. But the discrepancy between the high costs of the lines and their meager utilization is growing. And with it, the mountain of debt of the state-owned companies that are financing the construction.