Connecting these nations together with high-speed rail and giving the population of Southeast Asia a direct route into China's own massive domestic high-speed rail network will facilitate the movement of people and goods in ways that may not be immediately quantifiable.
There were similar doubts over China's own high-speed railway when it was first proposed, but it now moves billions of people a year, easily competes with domestic airlines, and has begun to play a role in China's development in ways not directly connected to simply collecting fares.
Arguments against the construction of Thai and Laotian high-speed rail based merely on passenger numbers and revenue projections are lazy arguments and are made primarily by a West otherwise unable to compete with China's growing influence and role in Asia - a region the US saw itself maintaining primacy over for another century.
The completion of high-speed rail in Southeast Asia - an admittedly massive project - will take time to prove its worth. But a look at high-speed rail anywhere else in the world indicates that such a network will undoubtedly become a major asset for each nation involved, and the entire region. It is no coincidence that detractors of the ongoing project are also deeply involved in promoting US-funded anti-government protests in Thailand and a generally anti-Chinese stance regarding any issue in the region.
For detractors, it is not doubts about the viability of this major leg of China's OBOR initiative - it is certainty of how it will contribute to the end of Western hegemony in Asia permanently.
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