As well as carrying civilian passengers, China's new high-speed rail network is expected to be used to transport troops around the country more quickly. (File Photo/CFP)
A white high-speed train left Qingdao in northern China's Shandong province on July 16, on a 1,308km journey along the newly inaugurated Beijing-Shanghai HSR line.
Onboard were 500 servicemen of the People's Liberation Army, the first group of Chinese troops to be ferried by the country's high-speed rail, according to the People's Liberation Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese armed forces.
CF8.com.cn said this was the first attempt by the armed forces to use China's high-speed rail to accelerate the movement of its troops to enable them to respond to incidents more quickly.
In addition to the Beijing-Shanghai line, China is building three different lines linking Hangzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province and Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province, through Fuzhou and Xiamen in Fujian province. These lines will facilitate the movement of troops along China's entire coastline.
As a large country, China faces problems in transporting troops to its border regions quickly. The armed forces lack the capacity to dispatch a large number of troops to areas far from their usual positions.
As a result, China has to position a large number of troops along its borders and each of the five of its seven military districts that border one or more neighboring states have large troops under their control to guard against external attacks.
The Mirror monthly in Hong Kong said China has only three mobile troop divisions which could be used as reinforcements, including the 38 Corps based in Baoding in Hebei province, the 54 Corps based in Xinxiang in Henan province and the 15 Airborne Corps based in Xiaogan in Hubei province.
All of these are stationed in central China and can be dispatched to any part of the country. Both Xinxiang and Xiaogan lie along the route taken by the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed rail line, which is under construction.
China's air force has a limited number of transport planes, which can transport only one division of troops overseas, while a train with 16 cars can transport 1,100 soldiers.
China's high-speed rail network when completed will consist of four east-to-west lines and four north-to-south lines linking the country's major cities.