Asia Minute: China and Japan Compete for Indonesia Rail Contract

Aug 17, 2015

Credit Danumurthi Mahendra / Flickr

Honolulu rail officials will be giving a progress report to the city council’s transportation committee this Thursday.  They’ll also be sharing updates on the 5.3-billion dollar project at a pair of neighborhood board meetings this week.  A rail system with a similar price tag is planned elsewhere in the Pacific, with some developments expected soon.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Competition between China and Japan takes many forms…one is centered on Indonesia’s most populous island.  Indonesia’s government is planning a high-speed rail on Java…linking the capital of Jakarta to the west Java capital of Bandung.  Right now, that’s a drive of about three hours over a road with less than perfect paving…or a picturesque train ride of about the same length if everything runs on time.

A bullet train would cut the trip to less than forty minutes…and both the Chinese and the Japanese have presented proposals to make that happen.  Indonesia’s national development planning minister says a choice will be made within the next couple of weeks.  It’s been the topic of fierce lobbying for months…with the intensity picking up in recent days.

On Thursday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency ran a story headlined “Beijing Sweetens Deal for Indonesia High-Speed Railway Bid.”  The very next day, a headline in the Jakarta Globe said “Japan Betters Offer for Indonesia Railway in Bidding War with China, Official Says.”

The competition is not just about this stretch of rail.  The winner gets the inside track on a much longer project stretching nearly 500 miles across four provinces—connecting Jakarta with the capital of East Java—Surabaya.