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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 08:58, August 17, 2006
Fire on Shanghai maglev train worries Germany
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"German-made maglev train catches fire" -- "A black day for maglev train" -- "German-made maglev train stumbles". These were the headlines in the German media following news of a fire on Shanghai's maglev train. Priding itself on its maglev technology, the German economy has taken a heavy blow.

Fire on maglev train a heavy blow to Germany

Germany's "El Mundo" newspaper reported that a carriage of one of the world's first and the only commercial maglev train caught fire in the afternoon of August 11 in Shanghai. Staff evacuated all passengers as soon as the fire alarm alerted them to the flames. The article said that although the high-speed maglev train in Shanghai was put into operation in 2004, it was not subjected to an inspection until April 2006. The maglev train caught fire less than four months after it was approved for service. It is the biggest accident since the Shanghai maglev train was put into operation. August 11, 2006 is a black day for the maglev train.

Almost all German media have expressed concerns. The "Bild" admitted that the fire came at really a bad time. Not long before this incident, China had announced it would develop its own high-speed maglev train. The "Der Spiegel" argued that the accident would influence the plan to build a high-speed maglev train network between Shanghai and Hangzhou. Following the accident, Germany's involvement in the project may be in jeopardy.

Germany's attitude continues to change

From the outset, stories about China and Germany's co-operation on maglev train technology cooperation were the darlings of the German media. A noted German economist who was consulted for this article said that Germany has carried different attitudes towards the maglev train project at its four different stages.

Two years ago, the government and German enterprises were extremely devoted to the maglev project. China and Germany were quite friendly. This was reflected not only in the transfer of technology but also in financial support.

Earlier this year, when the Chinese media revealed that China had begun to develop its own maglev train technology, the German media was quick to accuse China of plagiarism. The "Financial Times Deutschland" said that "maglev technology is the pride of German engineering as well as a symbol of innovation. Chinese people buy foreign technology only to counterfeit it." Bavaria's State Premier, Edmund Stoiber, responded even more harshly, saying that "what happened in China smells like technical theft". Even after the German government intervened to clarify the issue, the public was not entirely convinced. Germany began to feel uneasy at this time.

When the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev train project was announced, the German media urged the German government to turn down China's request for financing. The "Ge