What most impressed me at a construction site of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway is that the project adopts Chinese technology and standards in full measure.
Many advanced technologies have been applied and tailored, taking into consideration the local weather and geological conditions.
For example, the project is designed to withstand magnitude-9 earthquakes. Advanced machinery such as tunnel boring machines has also been used.
It would be fair to say the 140 kilometre Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, a project built by a China-Indonesia firm consortium which includes a subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd, is not only the first of its kind in Southeast Asia but also some kind of the world’s first-class high-speed railway. It is a benchmark.
From the beginning, the Chinese side has fully considered Indonesia’s demands by providing technology transfers. After construction began, the Indonesian partners participated in work on many important sections of the project.
Some Indonesian companies have also improved their production of raw materials and machinery, as demanded, to offer support to the project.
The Chinese and Indonesian sides invited Indonesian university students to visit, study and intern at the construction sites. Local employees have also started learning about advanced technologies.
Hence Indonesians fondly say that today China is helping them build the high-speed rail, tomorrow they will help Southeast Asia with it.
One popular view in the West is that by advancing the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing intends to expand its influence and spread the China development model worldwide.
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama once said, “A historic contest is underway over competing development models, that is, strategies to promote economic growth – between China, on the one hand, and the US and other Western countries on the other.” “Although this contest has been largely hidden from public view, the outcome will determine the fate of much of Eurasia for decades to come,” Fukuyama emphasised.
China will certainly popularise its standards during technology transfer, and these new measures are an important part of the China model.
But in projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China’s influence is spread through technology transfer and expansion of its technological standards. There is no involvement of ideology. Throughout history, technology has spread from the West to the East. In other words, it spread from the developed to the developing world.
China launched its reform and opening up more than 40 years ago. Almost all the industrial standards back then were created by Western countries. After arduously adapting to the standards, China laid a solid foundation and gradually promoted industrial innovation.
China’s innovations in infrastructure have driven technology upgrade and created new standards. In the recent one or two decades, Chinese enterprises have already played a leading role in the development of high-speed railways, bridges, and highways. Chinese enterprises have the ability, foresight and the needs to sum up experience and set standards.
The existing Western standards based industrial system generally breeds Chinese standards. Chinese standards are a result of the advances of the existing system, and they have not and cannot subvert the existing system. Chinese standards following the rule of evolution have become part of the global standards. Some in the West are worried about Chinese standards.
They especially worry about Huawei’s ability to set up standards in high technology such as 5G network. They are not prepared to adapt to it. They try to use ideologies to differentiate standards, which is bound to hurt the development of global technology and industry.
After interviewing workers at the high-speed railway construction site, I have a better grasp of the situation.
First, Indonesia is willing to accept Chinese technology and standards because they meet the needs of the country’s development. Meanwhile, they can help Indonesia connect to avant-garde technology and standards as fast as possible. This is just like China attracting Western technology and connecting to international standards during the early stages of reform and opening-up. It is the foundation for Chinese standards to go global.
Second, globalisation has brought emerging economies to the forefront, which is an inflection point since the West started its great expansion 500 years ago.
China stands out among these emerging economies
It is inevitable that Chinese technologies and standards will rise to promote the development of the West. If Western countries shut the door on Chinese technologies and standards just because of the difference in ideologies, they are staring at isolation and backwardness.