This article is continued from: Train System Comparison
Of course, one of the big advantages is that the government in China is autocratic. If they decide to do something, they don’t need to pass any new laws, get the votes of the people, or meet the expectations of a judicial branch. When the land for many of the train lines was bought from the farmers, it was bought by Chinese officials at dirt cheap prices and then sold by them to the government for windfall profits. The farmers didn’t have a choice if they were going to sell or not, but at the same time, from what I have heard from friends in the government, they were given enough money to buy a similar place not too far away.
Who’s Rights Anyway
In the US, the rights all lie with the individual. In fact, they lie with the thousands of individuals that own property between San Francisco and LA and Las Vegas and LA and the cost to the government to buy all that land is highly prohibitive. When most Americans hear about the farmers who are relocated against their will, we cringe, we wonder what could happen next, we get riled up against and afraid of the government. In China, the sentiment is much more tame. The action certainly isn’t appreciated, but it is accepted with the general feeling that the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few.
Besides the financial rights of Americans, the general human rights are defined in a complex series of legal documents. Anytime a person in the government or in business wants to understand what the options are, they have to pay for the time of one of the (if not THE) highest paid professions in the country, lawyers. And, not just an hour or two because even the lawyers don’t really understand the documents or how they can be manipulated and argued until they really dig into them for days, weeks, months…. All of those costs are forgone in the Chinese process.
Grass is Always Greener
I’m not taking sides here. Historically, autocratic governments with ill-defined succession policies lead the way in terms of ending in disaster, revolution and hard times, and certainly the protection of human rights for those citizens in modern autocratic countries mostly pales compared to their democratic counterparts. But, so far, China seems to be getting it right. At the end of the decade, China’s train systems will be moving unheralded numbers of people at very affordable rates in a much more environmentally friendly way than the US air traffic and highway systems ever will.