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Infrastructure projects in China spike, but not for long

A high-speed train leaves Beijing south railway station on August 11, 2011.

Steve Chiotakis: China may be looking to spend money in Italy it's also been pouring a ton of money at home to build up its infrastructure, with things like a high-speed rail system. And as President Obama today goes to Ohio to pitch his own infrastructure plan in this country, this morning we look at how China gets its projects off the ground so quickly there.

Marketplace's Rob Schmitz is with us now from Shanghai with the latest. Hey Rob.

Rob Schmitz: Hey, Steve.

Chiotakis: How is building infrastructure in China different than in the U.S.?

Schmitz: Well, China's at a completely different stage in its development as a country than where the U.S. is. The U.S. is largely built out, but there are parts of China that aren't yet connected to a road, so that's part of the reason China's fast-tracking all this development.

Chiotakis: And that's why we've seen high speed trains appear so quickly in China?

Schmitz: Yeah, I mean, five years ago, China didn't even have high-speed trains. Today, China has the largest high-speed rail network in the world.

I talked to China economist Arthur Kroeber today about all of this. He said you wouldn't see this kind of pace in the U.S., because environmental and property laws would hold up the whole process. He said Chinese leaders are worried about the same thing coming their way.

Arthur Kroeber: People will have more environmental concerns, there will be more secure property rights so people will not say it's fine for you to demolish my village so that you can build a highway through it.

So in a way, China's government sees that it has a window in which it can build all these huge projects.

But this summer's high-speed rail crash got many people here thinking that all this rapid development isn't such a good idea, so it's becoming clear that this window is starting to close.

Chiotakis: Marketplace China bureau chief Rob Schmitz in Shanghai. Rob, thanks.

Schmitz: Thanks, Steve.

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