Summary of Why China Is So Good at Building Railways

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Why China Is So Good at Building Railways summary

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If you’ve never lived in a country with an efficient and punctual train system, it would be hard to understand rail travel’s singular pleasures. The benefits extend beyond the obvious economic gains, cleaner air, a better-connected country, and fewer traffic accidents to the individual joys of a peaceful, productive commute. In this Wendover Productions video, Sam Denby explains how China was able to build a bigger train system more cheaply and much faster than anywhere else in the world.

About the Speaker

Wendover Productions is an educational YouTube channel started by Sam Denby in 2010. The channel has over three million subscribers. Denby’s other channels include Extremities; Half as Interesting; and Sam from Wendover.


China doesn’t fit the typical profile of a country with high-speed rail, but the country has built an impressive network over the past decade.

In 2008, China had two high-speed rail lines in total. Now China has just as much high-speed rail as the rest of the world combined. 

High-speed rail systems are usually the domain of wealthy, geographically small countries like France, Germany and Japan. China doesn’t fit the pattern. It’s a large country, about the size of the United States. And while it’s no longer poor – China is firmly in middle-income territory, along with Thailand, Mexico and Brazil – it’s still the poorest country to invest in high-speed rail. 

The Chinese government invests in the rail system because it builds the economy, but...

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