The implementation of the route Europe-Russia-China would have an invaluable impact on the economic situation in Eurasia.
This article originally appeared at Fritzmorgen’s livejournal, translated from Russian by Olga Seletskaia
Very important news went almost unnoticed the other day. The first container train arrived from China in the Netherlands. The route of the train passes through the territory of Russia and Belarus, then the train narrowed its wheels and rolled into Poland and then through Europe reached the borders of the country of tulip.
The route will become regular in August and a few more routes will be added in September. Each train carries 80 containers, so it will carry in one trip as much cargo as it takes a medium-sized container ship to carry per year.
It would seem that it is not too much … but only at first glance. Again, the importance of this news is difficult to overestimate.
Big politics on our planet is tightly connected to trade; and trade, in turn, is no less tightly connected to the trade routes. China can not do without Arab oil, and Europe, in turn, needs to get a variety of goods from China. Indeed, each region of the planet trades internationally, and the sea is the most commonly used means of transportation of goods. Huge tankers carry oil, and huge container ships carry standardized containers stuffed with various goods.
World powers are conditionally divided into the sea (Thalassocracy – Greek from “Thallos” – sea, and “Cracy” – power. – O.S.) and land (Tellurocracy) powers. An example of a typical thalassocracy is the US and Britain. These two empires over the last few centuries controlled the seas and oceans of our planet – and, therefore, they control the maritime trade, and through it the entire world.
Examples of typical tellurocracy are Russia, China and Germany. The geographical position makes our country pay more attention to land communications, to develop vast continental space.
Let us now look at the world map. What would happen if the three major world tellurocracies – Russia, China and Germany – unite into a single transport network?
The answer is obvious – the influence of the United States will fall sharply, as the Americans have little control over trade by land, they have a better ability to control trade by sea. Then, after Washington ceases to be ” king of the hill ” and loses its advantage, the political and economic weight will be redistributed more evenly.
And here it becomes clear that the center of the trade world is not London or Washington. The most densely populated region is the areas around India and China, the intersection of the most important land trade routes is located on the territory of Russia. That is where the entire economic and political life of the planet will be concentrated. The United States and Great Britain will be on the periphery.
By the way, one of the main tasks of the Ukrainian crisis was the creation of an insurmountable political wall between Russia and Europe. Had Washington managed to embroil us with Europe, the implementation of the route Germany-Russia-China would have been postponed indefinitely.
We now turn to the news about the wonderful train that takes 80 containers from China to the Netherlands. As you can see, the first “steel swallow” successfully rolled on rails, and now all conditions to increase the capacity of our railways have been created.
However, would the rail transportation be cost-effective? It is believed that it is impossible to compete with shipping by sea costs as they are incredibly cheap.
The social network “Aftershock” made some calculations that show that the myth of the all-conquering cheapness of the transportation by sea is not quite true: under certain conditions, rail transport can be very, very cost-effective.
Look at the current sea trade route from China to the Netherlands.
It is easy to notice several narrow spots on the route. They are: narrow and congested Strait of Malacca, infested by pirates Gulf of Aden, and located in the post-revolutionary Egypt, Suez Canal. Uncle Sam has the ability to arrange the problems in each of these potentially dangerous spots .
Second, the route’s geometry is not optimal: the ships sail in complex zigzags, covering the distance of 20 thousand kilometers instead of 9000 if taken by plane. The railways, of course, also are laid not in the ideal straight line; but still, compared to the sea routes, rail routes account for about two-fold gain in the distance.
Third, to deliver goods from one destination to another, it often takes a combination of transportation by sea and by land. For instance, if we need to deliver the goods from the center of China’s somewhere to the Czech Republic by sea, we need to add the considerable land path to the entire route to reach the destination point. With the railway, on the contrary, the length of the route is significantly reduced.
Finally, the last, but certainly not least: the railway is much faster. While it will take the container a month to surf the blue vasts of the ocean one way, the train will make a round trip. The rate of delivery is usually important, in some cases crucial.
All these advantages were not so visible with the first train – it took it 22 days to reach the Netherlands, and it is only 30% faster than by sea. However, the technology of the railways capacity increase is relatively cheap and simple: it is easier to lay a second rail path beside the existing one than to dig a parallel water channel and to build a system of locks in it. With political will of land powers ( Tellurocracies) all the missing infrastructure can be quickly created.
In terms of energy consumption both sea and rail means of transportation are approximately equal; but in terms of speed, flexibility and reliability railroads definitely come first.
Let’s look at a scenario of peaceful railroad network development, in which a dense network of rail routes would link all the continents together.
Russia will become a central point then. Railroads will stretch from Russia to China, India, Japan, Europe and to the United States through a tunnel under the Bering Strait.
European railways will go to Africa, and from the United States – to Latin America. Only Australia would remain the country without a developed international rail network: it would require to build a complex system of bridges to Indonesia which is economically unfeasible.
It is an exciting prospect, is not it? To get on a gorgeous train car somewhere in Rio Grande, one of the most southerly points of Argentina, to ride north through Chile, Peru, Colombia and several small Caribbean countries, to cross Mexico, the United States and Canada. To ride into snowy Alaska, to slip into the tunnel under the half-frozen Strait of Bering, and to arrive in the eastern tip of our homeland, in Chukotka.
Then the train will proceed along our usual rail routes through Russia and across Europe, across the new bridge over the Strait of Gibraltar, and it will take the passengers to the tropical African countries saturated with flowers.
So far, the description of this railway cruise of 40 thousand kilometers length sounds like science fiction. However, mankind possesses all of the necessary technology, and economic reasons to fill the missing gaps with railways are also very weighty. The first “swallow” just flew from Kunming to Rotterdam. You never know: perhaps in some 15-20 years we’ll be able to spend our holidays on such an incredible journey.