Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack gives opening remarks at MBTA's Orange Line subway car unveiling in Boston on April 3, 2017. Photo: CRRC MA
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack speaks at a CRRC subway car unveiling in Boston. Photo: CRRC MA

Xenophobia coupled with paranoia breeds imbeciles who are capable of only silly and petty actions. US Senator Chuck Schumer is the latest case in point. China’s CRRC Corporation has offered to put up US$50 million to help New York City develop and design state-of-the-art subway cars to replace dilapidated rolling stock in America’s largest subway system, a system that’s more than a century old.

Schumer immediately demanded that the US federal government fully vet this proposal based on the fear that China could use the cars to spy on America.

Horrors to Betsy, imagine millions employed in Beijing to listen in on daily commuter conversation on the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) and IND (Independent Subway System) lines. “Hi Joe, how’s the family? Think the Yankees will win the pennant this year?” Blah, blah, blah.

The next thing you know, by piecing the tidbits together, the Chinese would have stolen the top-secret design of the multi-headed missile! Ludicrous? Yes, but there is precedent for this line of illogic.

Twenty years ago, during the height of hysteria around Los Alamos scientist Dr Wen Ho Lee, an in-house Federal Bureau of Investigation expert on China publicly claimed that Beijing conducted espionage differently by relying on a “grains of sand” approach.

At the time, Paul Moore, onetime head of counterintelligence, claimed that Beijing relied on random bits of information collected by ethnic Chinese living in the US (each a grain of sand), which when assembled in Beijing became America’s top-secret weapon designs.

Schumer may have been influenced by Moore’s idea of the Chinese way of spying when he asked the Department of Commerce to check out CRRC. He probably didn’t know that Moore used to carpool with Robert Hanssen and did not have a clue that he was sitting next to the deadliest Soviet double agent inside the FBI.

Moore could see three Chinese talking to one another at a party to be in the process of passing secrets to China but never saw his buddy, Hanssen, as a spy for the Soviet Union. His racial bias against ethnic Chinese was not that of an isolated individual but reflected an institutional bias of the FBI as an organization.

Last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in Congress that Chinese spies were everywhere, that China uses non-traditional collectors of intelligence and poses a whole-of-society threat. Words that differ slightly from Moore’s but are rooted in the same racial prejudice unchanged for at least two decades.

In case you’re wondering, CRRC is the world’s largest manufacturer of railroad cars. As one measure of the advanced technology it owns, CRRC recently announced that it had developed a magnetic levitation (maglev) train that will go as fast as 600km/h.

In the US, CRRC has already won contracts to build replacement subway cars for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The business arrangement is basically similar for the four cities. CRRC would ship the outer shells of the cars to the US for assembly, in Springfield, Massachusetts, for Boston and outside of Chicago for the other three cities.

The tangible outcome of the two deals is that the four cities would get state-of-the-art subway cars that are lighter, quieter, safer and at least 20% cheaper than competing bids. The savings for each of the cities would be worth well north of $100 million when the orders are finished

All the components that go inside the car would either be manufactured or sourced from within the US. Thus the local content would exceed 60%. Each of the two assembly plants would employ 150 or more workers.

The tangible outcome of the two deals is that the four cities would get state-of-the-art subway cars that are lighter, quieter, safer and at least 20% cheaper than competing bids. The savings for each of the cities would be worth well north of $100 million when the orders are finished.

Since Pullman went out of business decades ago, the US hasn’t had any manufacturers capable of making rolling stock for passengers. Now with the cooperation of CRRC, the US will have two operations in different parts of the US.

The CRRC deals in the US involve technology transfer from China to the US – none stolen from the US, since the US didn’t have any. Even so, there remain parties that object to a Chinese presence in the US rail system.

One of these is the Rail Security Alliance, self-described as a coalition of freight-car manufacturers. Ostensibly this organization fears for the safety and security of passengers that ride on cars made by CRRC. Its real agenda is the fear that CRRC will move on to its turf next and take over boxcar manufacturing as well.

Can’t blame the freight-car makers for wanting to protect their livelihood, but what about New York, Washington and other metropolitan transit systems that run annual deficits? If they can’t buy from CRRC, the next-largest rolling-stock manufacturers in the world are Siemens and Alstom. Unfortunately, American cities can’t afford the prices these “Caucasian” companies charge.

Easy for Washington politicians to say don’t buy from China, but where are the supplemental funds to give to the transit authorities so that they could afford to buy “white” subway cars?

Chuck Schumer, as the US Senate minority leader, is very much part of the dysfunctional establishment in Washington. This group of people knows how to snipe, bicker and even lie as the occasion demands, but they do not know how to get anything done.

Schumer and his cohorts understand that repairing and rebuilding America’s infrastructure is the highest national priority. But they don’t have a clue on how to get started; they just know that they don’t want Chinese companies like CRRC to lend a helping hand.

How idiotic is that?

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  1. Dr. Koo insults those in the U.S. who don’t want to live on the product of cheap Chinese labor. Then he plays the race card. Finally, in most of his columns, he dares to parrot the slogan of “win-win.” Who is the dysfunctional one?

  2. Well Charles, what do you have to offer to America.? The deals that China had made in America provided jobs to Americans as the contract guaranteed US labor involvement. Without Chinese technology many of our infrastructure projects may not be built in your and my lifetime. Who wins that deal? The Parties in our country are so busy fighting between ourselves they will never get much done. We Republicans hate the Blue Party more than they hate Putin and the Russian KGB.

  3. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100 sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kudos

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