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China's Main Page

Transportation in China




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Summary of Transportation in China / China's Main Page



With an aggressive effort since 1949, by the Chinese government to improve their country, a comprehensive transportation system was created. It consisted of railways, highways, airplanes and water transportation. Just before 1950, there were only 21,800 km of railway lines available, but by the time 1998 arrived, there were 57,600-km lines of railway lines open.

Beijing is the hub for the railway line that heads north to south, consisting of the following lines: Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, Beijing-Shanghai Railway, Beijing-Kowloon Railway and the Beijing-Harbin Railway. The line that heads from west to east has its hub located in Zhengzhou. Railways from China to Holland now connect Asia and Europe. Newer lines have been built in southern China.

All town and counties are easy to reach through the development of the highway system, with nearly 1.278 million km stretching across the country. Compare that to the length of highways in 1949. 80,000 km. Now, towns, counties and townships that were once inaccessible, are within reach. Major expressways such as: Shenyang-Dalian, Beijing-Tianjin-Tanggu, Guangzhou-Shenzhen, Jinan-Qingdao and Yichang-Huangshi are a few examples. In 1998 alone, 37,000 km of highways were built, of those 1,487 km were expressways.

During the reformation, China worked hard at building and expanding airports. Between 1949 and 1978, China was willing to invest lots of money to expand and build airports. Since then, airports have been built to accommodate the needs of economic development. By 1998, there were more than 140 airports opened. The hub of air travel is based in Beijing, with Beijing being the base for international travel.

Travel from places as far off as Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, London, New York and Vancouver. Also, airlines depend on Beijing to all the provinces, regions, the open cities, border and remote areas.

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Another method of travel in China is via the waterways. With a coast of 18,000 km it is understandable why it can provide such convenience for inland development. The main rivers that are inland are the Yangtze, the Pearl, the Heilongjiang, the Huaihe, the Quiantang, the Minjiang and the Huangpu. The Yangtze is considered to be the "golden waterway". It is used for both freight and passenger transportation. The shipping out in the ocean off of China is divided up into two zones, the northern and the southern.

The northern zone consists of Shanghai as Dalian as the main shipping hubs. The southern hub has Guangzhou. Today the Shanghai Harbor is one of the largest harbors in the world, amongst the 20 other coastal harbors that inhabit China. By 1998 alone, there were over 12 billion people using water transportation as a means of traveling.

Another source of travel, is via telecommunications. Before 1978, there were no mobile telecommunications within China. But during 1978, optical cable lines expanded to 173,000 km. By 1998, mobile phone capacity was a high levels with just over 110 million users. Just over 10% of China’s population. Soon, China was the third-largest market for mobile phones in the world. Now, all large and at least mid-sized cities, have up to date services. Services that provide: international express mail service, international automatic telex, data transmission, express fax and TV program transmission services. 

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Not to be forgotten, is also the various services available over the Internet such as e-mail and e-commerce. The use of data communications have grown from nothing, to an efficient network.

Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, China has formed a comprehensive transportation system comprehending railways, a posts and telecommunications network accessible from all directions.  As the market economy system was established after the initiation of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, historic changes took place in transport, posts and telecommunications - they have developed quickly and are heading for openness and competition, emerging from a closed and monopolistic state.  

By the end of 1998, the total length of transportation lines in China had reached 2.98 million km, 16 times and 2.4 times the lengths in 1949 and 1978 respectively; the total length of optical cable lines had reached 173,000 km from zero in 1978.  In 1978, there were no mobile telecommunications in China; however, by the end of 1998, the nation's total mobile phone exchange capacity had reached 43.65 million users.  Mobile telecommunications have developed to the extent of using analogue and digital networks, and realized automatic roaming with some countries and regions. Data telecommunications have grown from nothing to the stage of having an efficient network.

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In 1949, there were only 21,800 km of railway lines in China, with only 11,000 km opened to traffic.  Between 1979 and 1998, newly constructed lines opened to traffic reached 14,979 km, of which electrified lines totaled 11,176 km.  In 1998, the length of railway lines opened to traffic reached 57,600, a 18.5 percent increase over 1978.

There are north-south and west-east trunk lines in China.  The north-south line, with Beijing as its hub, consists of the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, Beijing-Shanghai Railway, Beijing-Kowloon Railway and Beijing-Harbin Railway.  The west-east line, with Zhengzhou as its hub, consists of the Lianyunggang-Lanzhou Railway and Lanzhou-Urumqi Railway. The latter has been extended westward to link up with the railways in Kazakhstan.

Thus Asia and Europe are linked by railways from Linayungang in China to Rotterdam in Holland.  New railway lines have been built in mountainous areas in southwestern China, mainly the Chendu-Chongqing Railway, Baoji-Chengdu Railway, Chengdu-Kunming Railway and the Nanning-Kunming Railway.  Besides, the Turpan-Kashi Railway has been newly built in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

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In 1949, the length of highways in China was just over 80,000 km and more than one third of the counties nationwide were not accessible by road.  However, by 1998, the total length of highways opened to traffic had reached 1.278 million km.  Now, all counties, town and townships are accessible by road.

After 1978, China began to build a large number of expressways, including the Shenyang-Dalian, Beijing-Tianjin-Tanggu, Guangzhou-Shenzhen, Jinan-Qingdao, Chengdu-Chongqing, Yichang-Huangshi, Beijing-Shijiazhuang, Shijianzhuang-Taiyuan, Shanghai-Ningbo and Taiyuan-Jiuguan expressways.  In 1998, there were 37,000 km of newly built highways, 1,487 km of which were expressways.

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Between 1949 and 1978, China invested several billion yuan to construct and expand a group of airports, laying the foundation for civil aviation in the country.  Since the initiation of the policies of reform and opening, a group of airports have been built and expanded to satisfy the needs of economic development.  

By the end of 1998, there were over 140 airports opened to civil airplanes.  Of them, more than 80 could accommodate large airplanes such as Boeing 777s, 767s, 757s, 747s and 737s and A340s.  By 1998, the total length of civil air routes in China was 1.506 million km, 10.1 times that in 1978, and 1.122 air routes had been opened, 131 of which were international air routes.

The domestic airlines radiate from Beijing to all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, all open cities, and border and remote areas.  The international airlines reach more than 50 cities, including Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, London, New York and Vancouver.

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China's mainland coast is over 18,000 km long, and its rivers total 220,000 km in length.  Such excellent natural conditions provide convenience for developing inland river transport and ocean shipping.

The major inland navigable rivers in China are the Yangtze, the Pearl, the Heilongjiang, the Huaihe, the Qiantang, the Minjiang, and the Huangpu, not forgetting the Grand Canal between Beijing and Hangzhou.  In 1998, navigable inland waterways in China totaled 110,000 km, the volume of cargo transportation was 1940.6 billion tons/km, and the volume of passenger transportation was 12 billion persons/km.  Now there are more than 5,000 berths at some 70 major inland river ports.  The Yangtze, the "golden waterway" of China's inland river transport, has considerable annual volume of both freight and passenger transport.

Nanjing Harbor, the largest river harbor in China, has an annual capacity of 40 million tons.  Ocean shipping in China is divided into two major navigation zones: the northern and the southern ones.  The northern one has Shanghai and Dalian as the centers, and the southern one has Guangzhou as the center.  

Harbors (including inland river ports) built after 1978 have an annual capacity of 471.34 million tons.  There are more than 20 major coastal harbors in China, of which Shanghai Harbor ranks among the 10 largest trade harbors in the world, with an annual capacity of over 100 million tons.  China has an ocean fleet with a capacity of 22 million tons of goods, sailing among 1,100 harbors worldwide.

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Since 1978, the development of posts and telecommunications has entered a new historical stage.  The scale and volume of the telephone network, and the level of technology and services have all realized qualitative leaps.  China has built up its public telecommunications network to cover the whole nation and link it up with the rest of the world.

The public postal network now boasts complete services and multiple transportation means.  Many advanced methods are used, including optical cables, digital microwave networks, satellites, program-controlled exchanges, mobile telecommunications and data telecommunications.

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By the end of 1998, the nation's total mobile telephone exchange capacity had reached 130 million circuits, and the number of mobile telephone users had reached 23.86 million, making China the third largest market for mobile phones in the world.  The total number of telephone users in China reached 110 million in 1998, accounting for 10.6 percent of the nation's population, while the percentage in 1978 was 0.38 percent; and in urban areas, the percentage in 1998 was 27.7 percent, while in 1978 it was only 1.9 percent.

In rural areas, 67 percent of the administrative villages now have telephones.  Chinas has 102,000 post offices nationwide, and the total length of postal routes and rural mail delivery routes reaches 6.215 million km.  All large and medium-sized cities provide international express mail service, and have developed international automatic telex, data transmission, express fax, and TV program transmission services.  Besides, various services via the Internet, including e-mail and e-commerce, are now available.

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482 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 15
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 425
over 3,047 m: 63
2,438 to 3,047 m: 132
1,524 to 2,437 m: 133
914 to 1,523 m: 25
under 914 m: 72 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 57
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 26 (2009)
45 (2009)
gas 32,545 km; oil 20,097 km; refined products 10,915 km (2009)
total: 77,834 km
country comparison to the world: 3
standard gauge: 77,084 km 1.435-m gauge (24,433 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 750 km 0.750-m gauge (2008)
total: 3,583,715 km (includes 53,913 km of expressways) (2007)
country comparison to the world: 2
110,000 km navigable (2008)
country comparison to the world: 1
Merchant marine:
total: 1,826
country comparison to the world: 3
by type: barge carrier 4, bulk carrier 451, cargo 689, carrier 2, chemical tanker 69, combination ore/oil 1, container 162, liquefied gas 44, passenger 8, passenger/cargo 83, petroleum tanker 244, refrigerated cargo 33, roll on/roll off 10, specialized tanker 9, vehicle carrier 17
foreign-owned: 20 (Ecuador 1, Greece 2, Hong Kong 12, Indonesia 1, Japan 2, South Korea 1, Norway 1)
registered in other countries: 1,441 (Bahamas 10, Bangladesh 1, Belize 71, Bermuda 10, Bolivia 1, Cambodia 193, Cyprus 10, France 5, Georgia 10, Germany 2, Honduras 3, Hong Kong 324, India 1, Indonesia 2, Kiribati 15, South Korea 1, Liberia 11, Malta 12, Marshall Islands 7, Mongolia 1, Norway 36, Panama 532, Philippines 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 94, Sierra Leone 15, Singapore 14, Thailand 1, Tuvalu 16, unknown 39) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Dalian, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin

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