Fake building material imperils new Chinese railway

Dec 8, 2004
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
July 7, 2007 at 1:25 AM EDT

BEIJING — Fake construction material is jeopardizing the safety of China's newest high-speed railway, a Chinese newspaper says.

An investigation by the newspaper found that large quantities of bogus material had been used in several hundred kilometres of a $12-billion (U.S.) high-speed railway between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

The newspaper, China Economic Times, said the scam by unscrupulous suppliers could lead to cracking in the railway's concrete supports, creating a “great danger” to the railway.

The newspaper report, published this week, has triggered an investigation by the Chinese Railways Ministry.

Enlarge Image Passengers ride in a maglev train in 2006 in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The report is the latest revelation in the widening scandal over shoddy and hazardous goods in China. The issue has emerged as a global concern, with many countries, including Canada, increasingly worried by the dangers of food and other products from China.

Almost 20 per cent of goods made in China for domestic consumption have failed China's own standards for safety or quality in the first half of this year, a government agency reported this week. The tests focused on food products, fertilizers, farm machinery and common consumer goods.

China has also announced that 180 food factories have been shut down in recent months because their products were contaminated with illegal materials such as formaldehyde, industrial dyes and paraffin wax.

Fake cellphone batteries are another lethal danger. This week, the Chinese media revealed that a number of counterfeit batteries have exploded in safety tests. A man was killed in western China last month when a cellphone exploded in his chest pocket while he was welding. The explosion broke his ribs, and rib fragments pierced his heart. The faulty battery was labelled Motorola, but it was reportedly a fake.

In the railway scam, the China Economic Times reported that the railway's contractors had been tricked into buying large quantities of fake or deficient coal fly ash, a common ingredient in concrete.

The newspaper described the suppliers as “profiteers blinded by greed.” It published several photos of trucks loaded with fake fly ash and factories where the material is produced.

It said the bogus material was discovered in March by a construction engineer, who noticed a blockage in a pipe where concrete was being poured. Such blockages are uncommon, and he suspected it was caused by phony fly ash. The fake material looks identical to the genuine material, and only laboratory testing can tell them apart.

The high-speed railway, designed to carry trains at speeds up to 350 kilometres an hour between two of China's biggest cities, is currently under construction. It is described as the longest and most technologically advanced high-speed railway in China, and it has been praised lavishly by the Chinese news media.

Faced with mounting evidence of hazardous goods, the Chinese authorities have reacted ambivalently. They have announced crackdowns and safety campaigns, but they have also reacted with denials and censorship.

Harsh penalties have been announced in some cases. Yesterday, a former drug regulator was given a death sentence for accepting $307,000 in bribes from two medical companies.

At the same time, however, China has attacked the foreign news coverage of the hazardous products. “I think it would be better if the media would stop playing up this issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said this week.

Last week, Chinese censors went through every issue of Time magazine sold in China to tear out and destroy the first two pages of an article headlined “The Growing Dangers of the China Trade.”

The daily propaganda newspaper China Daily accused “foreign protectionists” of using safety issues to discriminate against Chinese products. “Any bias against products with a ‘made in China' tag does injustice to Chinese exports' overall good quality,” it argued in an editorial this week.

"Almost 20 per cent of goods made in China for domestic consumption have failed China's own standards for safety or quality in the first half of this year, a government agency reported this week."

How fucking shitty can something be made to fail Chinese safety standards... holy shit.


Hiding behind my keyboard
Jan 25, 2006
I can't buy chinese stuff, it all breaks prematurely. I'm glad they got ripped off for a change.


Bastard coated bastard w/ bastard filling
Mar 26, 2005
Washington, DC
please, 20% failure rate would be the stuff of dreams for the quality control on The Big Dig.


Jul 25, 2005
Yup, communism is really a good idea