The South China Morning Post on 20th August reported that widespread waste and fraud associated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been unearthed after the country’s state railway group was forced to admit this month that a significant amount of cargo containers shuttling between Chinese factories and European cities were empty. In one extreme case only 1 of 41 containers on a particular train actually carried goods. It says that China Railway admitted the existence of the problem in an interview with the state-run Global Times, but insisted that it had largely been eradicated in 2018 after new rules were introduced limiting the number of empty containers allowed to just 10% per train. Cities and provinces were looking to benefit from subsidies offered by both the local and national government, but these have been reduced or dropped altogether. This system of generous state subsidies for the cargo traffic routes, as well as praise from Chinese state media, combined to encourage the exaggeration and fraud. Last year, rail only carried 1.3% of trade between China and the EU by volume and 2.6% by value despite being usually cheaper than air and faster than sea transport, according to European Commission.
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