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“Hop on board”: the importation and future development of high‐speed rail (HSR) in China

Michael Y. Chuang (The Pennsylvania State University – Erie, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA)
William H.A. Johnson (The Pennsylvania State University – Erie, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Technology Management in China

ISSN: 1746-8779

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to describe, as a case study, the recent developments in high‐speed rail (HSR) technological development and economic and business development in China.


The authors use a descriptive case study design examining the factors behind the importation of foreign HSR technology and its development within the Chinese context. Various secondary sourced data are used to build the case that educational development in transportation technologies and strategic focus at the national level have created the ability to pursue the development and creation of a national strategic competency in HSR technology for the Chinese.


The authors find that a major factor behind HSR development in China appears to be the result of a need for the Chinese Government to build the competencies of strategic technologies at the national level. Given present usage levels of HSR, the internal development of HSR systems is not justified by the economic rationales of cheaper and more efficient transportation for the Chinese. However, the case does point out the importance of technological leapfrogging (or “hopping” over the competition, to use the analogy in the title). It is apparent in the case that Chinese engineering has advanced in such a way that it is not inconceivable that China may lead advanced technological state‐of‐the‐art designs in the near future. This building of national core competencies appears to be related to the increase in world‐class educational efforts. As such, the authors argue that the Chinese efforts in HSR are now described by fact‐based education and derivational innovation practices as illustrated in the staged model of innovation by Johnson and Weiss.


The case study is one of the first published in the academic management literature. It demonstrates the process of development of HSR in China and provides preliminary evidence of the importance of the educational and innovation practices in China on the development of an indigenous technological industry in the country.



Chuang, M.Y. and Johnson, W.H.A. (2011), "“Hop on board”: the importation and future development of high‐speed rail (HSR) in China", Journal of Technology Management in China, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 232-241.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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