Speed Demon is an ongoing visual investigation of the high speed rail system in China. I focus on the living environment along the railways, showing how the system has changed people’s habitat and revealing the mindset of the authority behind this massive infrastructure project.
The high speed rail system in China is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the world. Started in 2007, a total of 40,000 km (25,000 mi) network length under the definition of high speed rail will be accomplished by the end of 2015. It's been a controversial and problematic project. Cases of corruptions and bribing of officials have been uncovered by the media, probably due to the gigantic budget, over US$90 billion, involved in the project. At the same time, it is also used by the government as a way to channel the national pride in competing the technology and the maximum speed of the trains with other high-speed rail operators in the world. But there are the quality and safety concerns.
Building a tremendous network also means a lot of relocation or demolition of neighborhood. And there are always resettlement and compensation issues from time to time. The construction of the network largely relies on the form of elevated railways, especially on developed regions. Many of these giant railway structures intrude into existing quiet communities without any consultations or announcements to the people living there. These structures split villages or communities into parts. Many villagers and residents, who may have resided at the same place for generations, need to move to somewhere else. This contradicts the ideology of the Chinese government of building “Harmonious Society”. The railway itself becomes not just an awkward spectacle of those quiet suburban neighborhood, it also manifests the living situation of China nowadays.