China Dominates ASEAN Talks, Links to Singapore With High-Speed Rail

The Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor is to receive a very important new stop this year.

China map with surrounding countries


In China’s ever-growing regional and global dominance, the country has announced that construction will begin this year on a portion of the much anticipated high-speed rail line reaching all the way to Singapore, by way of Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Laos. The move will bolster trade between the superpower and Asia’s smaller players, as well as fortify the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region–of which Nanning is the capital–as China’s main center of Asian trade. And the main center of trade in all of Asia, for that matter.

“The construction of the railway between Nanning and Pingxiang, a city near China’s border with Vietnam, will start in the second half of this year,” reports China Daily. The cost will be about $3 billion.

The Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor will link Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Hanoi in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand, Vientiane in Laos, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore–cities that will thus become trading centers for the region and will most likely see additional economic development boosts due to the rail link. It’s easy to imagine local enterprises popping up to cater to travelers and tradesmen.

Portions of the corridor are already in place in one form or another–in some cases highways are complete and in others domestic rail lines have been linked between countries. But this week’s announcement that construction will begin on one of the final links–Nanning to Pingxiang–signifies the importance China places on making Nanning its Southeast Asian trading hub.

The timing of the announcement comes at a time when China and Japan are in increasing competition over dominance in the region, particularly over Vietnam. And as the Chinese city of Pingxiang is just at the border, one has to wonder why the sudden focus on that portion of what will be one of the largest inter-country high-speed rail links in Asia.

That said, the ASEAN Summit just wrapped on Monday and it was clear that China intends to maintain its dominance in the region–even though it’s not officially part of ASEAN, a 10-member group of only Southeast Asian countries.


Whether the corridor is meant for trade or easy access to neighboring countries for other purposes, the rail link is set to alter the region significantly, giving rise to targeted innovations and enterprises throughout Southeast Asia.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.