Transportation: Challenges and Opportunities

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-08-20 15:23
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The plan for the reform of State Council institutions and the transformation of their functions has set a clear direction for the reform and development of the transport sector in the period ahead. Taking this as a basis, we need to seize opportunities, meet challenges, commit ourselves to reform and innovation, and overcome difficulties in a drive to achieve new advances in the transportation sector. These efforts will allow us to contribute further to China’s efforts to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

A row of trucks parked outside the Lhasa West Railway Station (Photo taken on June 15, 2013). The China Railway Corporation began implementing freight organization reforms on June 15, 2013. The aim of these reforms is to push railway freight transit fully into the market, thereby accelerating the transition of railway freight towards modern logistics. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Jue Guo

New opportunities and new challenges

As China enters a decisive stage of its efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the country’s transportation sector has come to the point where it is able to give play to its comprehensive advantages. 

In evaluating the state of our transportation sector at this new starting point, we must bear in mind the fundamental national reality that China is still in the primary stage of socialism. We need to be aware that the overall strength of transportation in China and the level of modernization in the country’s transportation sector are not yet high. In particular, we should be aware that the sector is still falling short of public expectations and the demands of economic and social development, and that we are still facing numerous problems and challenges with regard to reform, development, and restructuring. First, as transportation reforms enter deeper waters and more difficult territory, it is imperative that we dismantle the institutional and structural barriers that are constraining the healthy development of the transportation sector. Second, deep-rooted issues such as unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable development are becoming increasingly prominent, signaling that there is no time to lose in promoting innovation, improving quality and efficiency, and transforming our mode of development. Third, there is a great deal that still needs to be done with regard to improving the efficiency, quality, and management of transportation services. The major challenge lies in ensuring equal access to transportation services for people in western regions and regions where poverty exists over extended areas. Fourth, the overall scale of our transportation infrastructure is still insufficient. Moreover, this infrastructure is laid out irrationally, and we have been unable to form sound routines for the construction, maintenance, and management of infrastructure. Fifth, we are experiencing shortages of high-caliber, highly skilled, and multi-talented personnel, which means that improvements are needed to policies and systems for the development and management of personnel. In summary, underdevelopment, low quality and efficiency, and a lack of readiness for reform, innovation, and scientific development among some officials constitute the biggest problem, most outstanding issue, and key constraint that we are facing in transportation at present. Therefore, we must accurately judge the current features of transportation development under new conditions, be more mindful of potential dangers and more prepared for unfavorable outcomes, overcome difficulties in development, and improve the quality of development. Only then will we be able to create broader horizons for the development of transportation in China. 

Taking the realities of our transportation sector into account, we need to adopt a more conscientious attitude when it comes to the priorities, core standpoints, basic requirements, and fundamental approaches of transport authorities in implementing the Scientific Outlook on Development. With regard to our priorities, we must pursue the sustainable, steady, and healthy development of transportation and raise our capacity to ensure sufficient services in the transport sector; with regard to our core standpoints, we should ensure that we put people first, develop transportation for the people, and allow the people to benefit from development; with regard to basic requirements, we should work faster to change the mode by which transportation develops and promote the restructuring and transformation of the transportation sector; and with regard to our fundamental approaches, we need to promote overall, coordinated development, which includes coordination between expansion, structural optimization, and the transformation of the mode of development; coordination between reform, development, and stability; coordination between construction, maintenance, management, and transport; coordination between urban and rural areas, between different regions, and between the development of various modes of transport; and coordination between the development of transportation and the protection of resources and the environment. By doing the above, we will be able to firmly seize the initiative in the development of transportation and succeed in making the development of the transportation sector more scientific in all regards. 

New tasks and new goals

In order to better enable transportation to serve our efforts in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, we must concentrate our efforts on the following five strategic tasks. First, we must continue to deepen reform in an effort to further develop the mechanisms and institutions that will underpin the scientific development of transportation. We should focus on top-level design and overall planning whilst proceeding with the further reform of the entire transportation system, so as to make reform in transportation more systematic, more integrated, and more coordinated. At the same time, we should further deepen reforms with regard to our comprehensive transport system, road management system, and financial backing system for construction, and make determined efforts to clear away institutional barriers that prevent the rational development of transportation, so as to create an institutional environment that is geared towards the socialist market economy and requirements for the development of productive forces in transport. Second, we must pursue innovation-driven development, and work to promote the transformation and upgrading of the transportation sector. Following trends in the application of information technology and intelligent technology, we need to speed up the integration of transportation and modern logistics, support transport enterprises in shifting towards modern logistics, and actively develop advanced transportation solutions such as drop and pull transport, combined transport by rail and sea, roll-on and roll-off transport, direct transport between river and sea, and combined container transport. At the same time, we should devote major efforts to the development of logistics in rural areas, and promote the robust and large-scale development of postal express delivery. By doing so, we will support economic and social development and meet the demands of the public through the provision of transport services that are more efficient, more advanced, and more superior in quality. Third, we must give top priority to the improvement of public wellbeing, and raise the standard of public transportation services. Maintaining a tight focus on safety, we need to lay down a solid infrastructure for safe production and ensure that transport is safe. By directing our efforts towards the resolution of major issues pertaining to public wellbeing, we need to take solid steps to raise the standard of basic public transportation services and make progress in providing equal access to such services. Through these efforts, we will be able to ensure that the people can gain more and benefit more equally from the development and reform of transportation. Fourth, we need to make appropriately future-oriented plans and optimize the layout of transportation infrastructure. In line with demands for a new model for urbanization, we need to lay out rational infrastructure networks in different areas and on different levels, the basis of which should be the integrated development of urban and rural areas and the rational allocation of resources and industry. We should promote the development of comprehensive transport corridors and intercity traffic lines in metropolitan areas, focus on addressing weak links in construction, and work to raise the durability and reliability of infrastructure, so as to ensure the stable, rapid, and healthy development of transportation infrastructure. Fifth, we need to strengthen the transportation sector through the development of human resources, and focus on building up momentum for the development of transportation. We should thoroughly implement the strategy of strengthening transportation through the development of human resources, and concentrate on fostering highly creative personnel, highly-skilled personnel, and highly-qualified management personnel, thereby creating a large contingent of highly-competent talent that boasts broad skills over a large range of fields. These efforts will provide us with the talent and the brainpower we need to promote the rational development of transportation. 

Efforts must be made to provide a new boost to innovation-driven development as we implement our strategy of strengthening transportation through science and technology in greater depth. To do so, we need to place our focus on promoting close integration between scientific and technological innovation and the development of the transportation sector. Centering around the enhancement of our capacity for scientific and technological innovation, we need to prioritize the integrated application of modern information technology in transportation, speed up efforts to develop an innovation-oriented transportation industry, increase the contribution of scientific and technological innovation to the development of the transportation sector, and give full play to the supporting and leading role of scientific and technological innovation in the transformation and restructuring of transport. In addition, innovative steps should be taken to promote the development of a comprehensive transportation system that is safe, convenient, economic, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Under the framework of this comprehensive system, we should then gradually develop an intensive infrastructure system, a modern transportation equipment system, and a rational organization and guarantees system. We should also draw on innovation to build a green and low-carbon transportation system. By relying more on energy-conserving, emissions-reducing, low-carbon, and green technologies to promote the development of transport, we will strive to realize the intensive, green, and sustainable development of transportation. 

In line with the underlying guideline of promoting scientific development and the major task of accelerating the transformation of our economic growth model, we must commit ourselves to accelerated efforts in the development of a modern transportation sector. This will involve continued efforts to maintain the efficient provision of new infrastructure, continued efforts to raise quality and efficiency in the development of transportation, continued efforts to enhance the standard of basic public transportation services, and continued efforts to strengthen transportation construction in urbanizing areas and regions where poverty exists over extended areas. Through these efforts, we shall make the development of transportation safer, more efficient, more coordinated, and more innovative in all respects. In addition, we must continue to regard steady progress as the overriding tone of our initiatives, strike the right balance between speed, scale, demand, funding, and the carrying capacity of the environment during the development of transport, continue making efforts to maintain rapid yet steady development, and take solid steps to preserve harmony and stability in the industry. On this basis, we must work hard to achieve new progress in transforming the mode of development and restructuring transportation, make breakthroughs in deepening reform and opening up and promoting independent innovation, and make new achievements in strengthening industrial management and improving public services. By doing the above, we will ensure quality, effectiveness, and sustainability in the development of transport.  

New measures and new prospects

The development of transportation in China should be planned strategically and with global perspective. Viewing transportation management and innovation in transportation management with a contemporary and developmental outlook, we should regard public satisfaction and support as the ultimate criteria for evaluating the quality of our initiatives in transport. On that basis, we need to strengthen strategic planning for transportation development, make improvements and adjustments to industry policies, and build up a portfolio of innovations. We need to find a balance between preserving the continuity and stability of policies and making adjustments where appropriate to keep up with the pace of change. Moreover, we should develop a sound mechanism for evaluating the risks that major decisions pose to social stability, and improve policies and measures that are conducive to scientific development. We need to improve financial backings for the sustainable development of transportation, ensure the steady increase of funding, expand financing channels, optimize the financing mix, and widely encourage private investment in transportation. At the same time, we will continue to implement differential investment policies in accordance with the respective characteristics of different regions, further tilt investment towards western regions and other priority areas, and provide greater support to comprehensive transport, modern logistics, energy conservation, emissions reduction, safety, and emergency response.

The key to the sound progress of our transportation initiatives in the period ahead lies in strengthening the leadership of the Party. Therefore, we must proceed further with efforts to make our Party organizations more oriented towards learning, services, and innovation, and work to foster a contingent of highly capable officials led by upright and honest leading bodies. In addition, we should take solid steps to develop a framework of measures for the control and prevention of corruption that is geared to the transportation sector, so as to ensure that honesty and integrity are upheld. 

Continuing to put the immediate interests of the people first, we should engage in determined efforts to open up new horizons for the development of transport whilst working to enhance both the public credibility of transport authorities and their capacity to execute policy. We should promote the development of Party organizations and leading bodies that place an emphasis on study, carry out in-depth surveys in local regions, and increase our ability to overcome difficulties, resolve conflicts, drive development, and promote harmony. At the same time, we should carry out intensive activities to study and practice the Party’s mass line, with the focus being placed on the need to serve the people in a down-to-earth, honest, and upright fashion. By answering in the depth of our heart the questions of “who we are,” “who we represent,” “who we rely on” and “who we serve,” we should promote the modernization of transportation through our hard work and practical efforts, and gradually transform China from a major country in transportation to a leading country in transportation.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.7, 2013)

Author: Minister of Transport of the People’s Republic of China and Secretary of the Leading Party Members’ Group of the Ministry of Transport  

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