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A contentious Chinese high speed rail project in Thailand has emerged as an important test of both Beijing’s regional ambitions and the appetite of the ruling generals in Bangkok for deeper ties with their giant neighbour.

泰国一个有争议的中国高铁项目将是对北京方面的地区雄心、以及泰国军政府深化泰中关系意愿的重大考验。

Questions swirl around the scope, cost and viability of a plan that critics have branded the Train to Nowhere after the two countries said they wanted to push ahead with a $5.2bn first phase but pointed to initial construction of only 3.5km of track.

围绕中泰高铁计划的规模、成本和可行性,人们提出了种种质疑。在两国声称希望推进造价52亿美元的第一期工程、但又表明最初仅建造3.5公里轨道之后,批评者将之戏称为哪儿也去不了的列车。

The project is part of a wider pivot by China to Southeast Asia as it seeks to build trade routes, exploit tensions with Washington, and quell opposition to its sea territory claims.

该项目是中国转向东南亚地区的更广泛战略的一部分,这一战略的目的是打通贸易线路、利用有些国家与美国之间的紧张关系以及消除各方对自身领海主张的反对。

But the Mekong rail initiative has also been plagued by delays and disagreements that highlight wider regional obstacles to Chinese dominance and its One Belt, One Road trade route strategy of investing in infrastructure in neighbouring countries — as well as those farther away.

但湄公河区域铁路计划也受到拖延和分歧等问题的困扰,突显出中国的主导地位及其在邻国及更远地区投资建设基础设施的一带一路贸易线路战略在地区遭遇更为广泛的障碍。

Aksornsri Phanishsarn, an economics professor and China specialist at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, said more than a dozen bilateral meetings on the proposed 873km Sino-Thai railway co-operation had still failed to resolve some big disagreements.

泰国国立法政大学(Thammasat University)经济学教授及中国事务专家胡慧文(Aksornsri Phanishsarn)表示,中泰双方就拟议的873公里铁路合作计划举行了十多轮双边会谈,但仍未解决一些重大分歧。

These included how the project would be funded and what the conditions of any loans from China would be.

这些分歧包括项目融资方式以及中国提供贷款的条件。

I do hope that these problems can be overcome if the two countries seriously work together with sincerity and concrete commitments to their mutual benefit, she said.

她表示:我衷心希望,如果双方真诚合作,做出互惠互利的具体承诺,这些问题能够得到解决。

The Mekong rail project has long been billed as a crucial plank in efforts to build a transport and trade bridge between China and a Southeast Asian region of more than 600m people.

湄公河区域铁路项目一直被宣传为打造连接中国和有6亿多人口的东南亚地区的交通和贸易桥梁的关键一环。

The first train route would run from the southern Chinese city of Kunming via Vientiane, the capital of Laos, then on to Bangkok and a port and petrochemical complex in the coastal Thai province of Rayong.

首条铁路线将从中国南方城市昆明出发,经由老挝首都万象,然后抵达曼谷和泰国沿海省份罗勇府的一个港口和石化工厂。

China and Thailand have provisionally agreed to a 179bn baht ($5.2bn) deal for the first 250km phase of the project within Thailand, which would run north from Bangkok to central Thailand, the country’s transport minister said last week.

泰国交通部长上周表示,中国和泰国暂时达成了1790亿泰铢(合52亿美元)的协议,将建设位于泰国境内的250公里的第一期工程——从曼谷以北延伸至泰国中部。

A building contract is scheduled to be tendered and awarded for an initial 3.5km section by November, with work to start before the end of the year.

按照计划,最初3.5公里的建造合同将在今年11月前招标确定,并在年底前动工。

The announcement of such a short first segment has been mocked by some commentators but Narongsak Sanguansin, a Thai transport ministry official, said it would serve as a model and would allow any initial technical problems to be identified and resolved.

泰国宣布如此短的首段工程,受到了一些评论人士的嘲笑。但是泰国交通部官员那龙萨•沙愿辛(NarongsakSanguansin)称,这一路段将作为样板,以便发现和解决所有最初的技术问题。

This is the first time Thailand has had this kind of high-speed train construction, so there may be many things that need to be adjusted, he said.

这是泰国首次上马这类高速铁路建设,因此可能会有很多方面需要调整,他称。

But the exact status of the project still remains unclear.

但是,该项目的确切状况仍然不清楚。

A Chinese source with knowledge of investment in Thailand suggested the deal with Bangkok was not yet sealed.

一位了解中方对泰国投资情况的中国消息人士表示,与曼谷方面的协议尚未敲定。

They keep announcing it prematurely, he said.

他们不断贸然宣布相关消息,他称。

The hiatus in reaching an agreement echoes delays in the $7bn China-Laos rail project, which was launched with much fanfare with a groundbreaking in December but has moved little since.

中泰项目的拖拉与中国-老挝铁路项目如出一辙。这个价值70亿美元的项目于去年12月大张旗鼓地举行了动工仪式,但是从那之后几乎没有进展。

Vientiane said in July that work was on hold pending completion of reports on social and economic impact demanded by the Chinese banks backing the venture.

7月,老挝曾表示,工程暂停,等待提供融资的中方银行所要求的社会和经济影响报告完成。

Thailand’s generals have pushed for closer relations with China since their May 2014 coup.

自从2014年5月军事政变后,泰国军政府一直力推与中国建立更紧密的关系。

They want to kick-start their country’s sluggish economy, while relations with the US have cooled because of Washington’s criticism of the military putsch.

他们希望重振萧条的国内经济,同时由于华盛顿方面指责那次军事政变,泰国与美国的关系逐渐冷却。

For Beijing, the Thai project offers a gateway into a Southeast Asian regional hub and a chance to deepen relations with a military that has no territorial quarrels with China and is likely to remain highly influential in Bangkok even after elections provisionally scheduled for next year.

对于北京方面来说,泰国铁路项目提供了进入东南亚地区中心的通道,并可以借此机会深化与泰国军方(和中国不存在领土争端)的关系。即使在暂定于明年举行的泰国大选后,泰国军方也很可能保留在曼谷的重要影响力。

But some analysts say the Thai rail project makes little commercial or strategic sense.

但一些分析人士表示,泰国铁路项目几乎不具备商业和战略价值。

Zhao Jian, economics professor at Beijing Jiaotong University and a trenchant critic of high-speed rail both within and outside China, said the Sino-Thai rail link was a loss-loss proposition and China will be the biggest loser.

北京交通大学(Beijing Jiaotong University)的经济学教授赵坚对中国境内外的高铁项目都持批评意见,他称中泰铁路线是个双输的提议,中国会成为最大的输家。

Even normal rail would probably be lossmaking in that region because there is no significant traffic there, Mr Zhao said. These countries don’t have any money.

即使是在该地区建设普通铁路也可能亏损,因为那里没有巨大的交通流量,赵坚称,这些国家没有钱。

They aren’t providing a guarantee, so the losses are China’s.

他们不会提供担保,因此亏损将由中国承担。

Other observers have suggested that big rail projects are useful to China because they mop up spare supply chain capacity that lacks enough orders domestically.

其他观察人士表示,建设大型铁路项目对中国有益,因为这些项目可以吸纳中国国内多余的供应链产能。

Beijing argues demand for rail capacity will flourish as neighbouring countries become richer, as has happened in China itself.

北京方面认为,随着邻国日益富有,它们对铁路运力的需求将随之高涨,正如中国的情况一样。

Thailand has an extreme concentration of population and financial resources [in Bangkok], said Mei Xinyu, a Beijing-based economic strategist. If you built infrastructure elsewhere, the resources would follow and the under-developed areas would become more developed.

泰国的人口和财力高度集中(在曼谷),北京的经济分析师梅新育称,如果在其他地方建设基础设施,资源就会流动起来,欠发达地区会变得发达一些。

 

图文来源:可可英语

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