If you’ve spent a little time in China you’ve undoubtedly come across the sound of a single cylinder diesel engine. Its putt putt putt sound is that which we found in the original John Deere tractors years ago. The design is German and they can be found in Eastern European countries as well as China. They abound in China providing power to things like the pictured farm tractor which looks like a quite large rototiller with a wagon hooked to it. They are quite strong and can haul one and a half yards of sand or bricks piled up way higher than appears safe. Engines come in the 10 to 20 horse power range for the most part. So in the range of most lawn tractors in the US but with much higher torque and high speeds of less than 10 miles per hour.

If y0u look at the picture to the right the green container on top of the engine is filled with water.  The top opening is left open I imagine so water can be added as needed.  There is always steam rising from that area as they putt putt along.

Then there are the barges that move heavy loads of sand and other products for the building business up and down the many canals in Eastern China.   The barges sport 3 or 4 of the engines which all drive a common shaft to the propeller.   As with all modes of transportation in China it appears to be way overloaded.  Seems to me if a wave came along from a passing boat that the water would make its way into the hold and the whole thing would be at the bottom of the canal.  I spent hours standing on a bridge watching them but they seem to manage to carry their loads of sand and coal along without incident.
(more…)

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Since I wrote this article two high-speed trains crashed resulting in the deaths of 40 people and an outcry by critics in China and around the world.  The Chinese government has been greatly embarrassed by this and has taken measures to slow the expansion and take a step back to evaluate strategies in order to make the system safer.  One train model has been recalled for safety concerns and modifications before being allowed back in service.  This involves at least 35 trains, many which operated on the prestigious Shanghai to Beijing route.

I look at it from a more practical standpoint somewhere between the critics who look at everything with suspicion and see conspiracy theories in any government, including China’s and complacent citizens who follow blindly no matter what.

 

This sad situation will get fixed and the lessons learned will be built into future trains and retrofitted into existing ones. In the meantime, trains will run a little slower and be separated by greater distances.  This is a mind boggling and wonderful people moving initiative and longed for by many citizens in other parts of the world.  I learned something a long time ago regarding operations and problems. It goes like this: “There always will be problems but those who excel learn from them, fix them and move on.”  Failure to accept responsibility, ignoring problems or sweeping them under the rug accomplishes nothing – and usually backfires.

 

 

My office is in Chanzhou – around 120 miles to the west and north of Shanghai.  I’ve mentioned the Golden Highway in previous posts – the high speed rail links the major cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang and Nanjing; stretching for a total of 180 miles.  At speeds reaching over 200 mph, a direct train between Shanghai and Nanjing can make the trip in 73 minutes.  The majority of the track is elevated and special concrete ties are used as part of the track system.  The result is a very smooth ride. (more…)

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A Prefecture City in China

Perhaps I’m a little slow, but I’ve spent a good portion of the last seven years working here in my office in Changzhou, and I just now figured out how things work.  At first I was amazed that the city had 3.5 million inhabitants but I just accepted it, regularly commenting on how a city of this size in China didn’t even get a mention in the national weather report.  When my staff told me that we were off to visit a supplier here in the city, I didn’t question the three-hour car ride – but was irritated by it none the less. (more…)

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photo courtesy of Ctrip www.ctrip.com

Traveling around China is filled with challenges, especially for many Western business travelers who demand 5-star hotel accommodations from their employers. Let’s take a look at China’s rating system which does not comply with the international system used by European and other Western Countries, including the United States. (more…)

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