The Chinese government on Friday banned the construction of high-Speed Rail in mainland China and imposed stiff fines on companies building it, in a step that has raised hopes of a breakthrough with its neighbours.
Key points:The move came as the China Railways Corp, China’s largest rail operator, said it would not resume building new lines in mainland ports as of next weekThe move was announced as Beijing said it was considering tightening its grip on its maritime rights over its watersThe move, announced on the official Xinhua news agency, comes as the Chinese government has taken steps to tighten its grip over its maritime territories in the South China Sea.
“It is the first step in the process of setting up a new high speed railway line from Nanjing to Singapore, which is expected to be completed in 2019,” said a statement on China’s official Xinjiang People’s Daily.
“China will take the necessary measures to ensure that the project is conducted safely, without harming the interests of China and other countries,” it added.
Beijing has already begun construction of the line, which will link Nanjing with Singapore, a major Chinese city, but a final design is yet to be finalised.
It will allow Chinese companies to build rail networks from China to Singapore without having to go through the complicated procedures to get permits.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that Beijing would not tolerate the “extremist” activities of its neighbours, and Beijing has been trying to strengthen its claims in the area.
The Chinese move comes as Beijing has started construction of a high-capacity railway linking the capital Beijing to Singapore in 2019.
It is set to be China’s biggest railway project in decades and the first such line to be built outside mainland China.
China has repeatedly expressed concern over the construction in the disputed waters of the South Sea, which have become increasingly contested over the years.
Bei’s government has increasingly taken a more assertive approach to the region, and the Beijing-backed project has raised concerns among the international community that Beijing is trying to undermine regional stability.
Beirut-based Al Jazeera’s Sarah Karim, reporting from Beijing, said China’s decision was a signal to other nations that Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance could hurt regional stability and relations with the United States.
She said the move could signal that Beijing may be looking to extend its influence in the region in order to further consolidate its hold on its economic interests and territorial claims in this area.
“Beijing’s rhetoric and actions in the last few years are clearly aimed at pushing the United State to back down from its claims to the South East Asian sea, which are contested in a variety of ways,” she said.
“There’s now a sense of alarm among some nations that this new rail project, which could be a very important part of Beijing’s bid to dominate the region economically and militarily, could come at a time when China’s relations with its neighbors have been on the rocks.”
The potential for it to be used by Beijing to exert further influence in regional waters and ultimately threaten the stability of regional stability is very real.