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Guangzhou South Station: something out of a zombie movie

July 7, 2011
Wuhan, China

When I left my hotel bound for the new Guangzhou South Station the other day , I didn’t know much about the station– where it was, how far from the hotel, etc. After about 25 or 30 minutes in the cab, I still hadn’t seen any signs for the station and grew concerned that the cabbie was just taking me for a ride.

As we eventually approached the station, I began to understand why it was so far out of town.  Clearly, the only way they could find enough contiguous land to build this monstrosity was to go WAY into to the outskirts of the city.

In the end, it was a 27.82 kilometer (17.39 miles) cab ride from my downtown hotel, and took 49 minutes to get there.  I know this because Chinese taxis are very efficient and give you a highly detailed receipt.

Guangzhou South Station is absolutely COLOSSAL.  By comparison, it is much bigger than any of the 3 international airport terminals in Manila where I live… and I’d say it’s over 8 times larger than the Central Airport Express Station in Hong Kong.

For a start, the Guangzhou South Station is built on THREE levels.  I was dropped off at level 2.  When I entered there was an “Information” booth straight ahead.  It was unstaffed.  In fact, the entire second level was completely deserted.  Very spooky. It was something out of a low-budget zombie movie.

I went downstairs to the ticketing area where there were a few signs of life. Of the forty or so ticket windows, well over half were closed, and there were only a few dozen people mulling about. To give you an idea of density, imagine the largest football stadium you can think of with only a few hundred people inside. Ghost town.

With ticket in hand, I went up to the departures area… it defies logic that you have to go upstairs to departures even though the trains are at the ground level, but my guess is that the Party really wanted to build a third level just to heighten the grandeur of the train station.

Now, you’d think that if they spent so much money building a station this large, they would be expecting hundreds of trains steaming in and out at all hours of the day. Not by long shot. There was only one train at the platforms. Mine.

It was the same zombie movie theme– areas the size of multiple football fields with hardly any passengers standing around.  And yet, throughout the entire station over all three levels was expensive, high quality marble tiles and artistic finishings, all polished to a mirrored shine.

Guangzhou South Station is truly a monument to excess, exemplifying China’s ruinous “build it and they will come” attitude.

When I arrived to Wuhan about 4-hours later (going 300 km per hour on the high speed bullet train), it was the same theme: acres of empty space, hardly a soul in sight, yet all very modern and marbled with dozens of elevators and abandoned information booths. When my train pulled in, it was the only one at the platforms.

Frankly, the whole episode reminded me of Bangkok and Hong Kong airports during the SARS epidemic back in 2003.  I observed this firsthand– passenger traffic cratered because most people were scared silly of catching the deadly virus, and major airports were practically empty.

Similarly, it’s what you would expect Grand Central Station to look like after a flesh-eating virus outbreak.

It’s interesting to note that China’s National Audit Office (NAO) recently published a report which says the country’s outstanding local government debt is now equivalent to $1.7 TRILLION. That’s a huge figure — about 27% of China’s GDP in 2010.

Because the NAO’s figure was based only on a sampling of 6,500 local government-backed financial vehicles (out of more than 10,000 such vehicles nationwide), the actual magnitude of local government indebtedness is likely to be much greater.  China’s own Central Bank estimates the number to be 30% higher than the NAO figure.

All of this certainly begs the question– how many more empty buildings and unused train stations can they possibly build?  More importantly, what happens to China’s economy when all this fixed asset spending starts to subside?  I’ll explore these questions more in the coming days… but in the meantime, I’d like to hear what you think about it.

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About the author: Born to a Danish father and British mother, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Tim Staermose has led an international life since the day he was born. Growing up, he also lived in Egypt, Denmark, and Singapore, before eventually settling in Australia, where he completed his education and took out citizenship. Since then he has also lived and worked in Hong Kong, and Manila, Philippines, in the field of equity research — both for a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank, and for an independent investment research firm. Today, when not traveling the globe looking for investment and business opportunities for the Sovereign Man community and catching up with his diverse, multinational group of friends, he divides his time between Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob Wilson

    When it goes, it’s gonna go big! 2008 will seem like a distant memory when all this excess collapses around us.

    • MikeyrInFL

      Agreed. The question is to what degree with the US go down with it.

  • Surviorwoman

    Get ready to bunker down my friends, it’s going to be a long hard ride!  Prepare now before it’s too late.  as your article pointed out, it all has to end sometime and that time is drawing near.  Survivorwoman.

    • Duggyscooter

      dang ! signs of intelligent life ! :)
      [it now seems possible to build your own solar panels for a cost real humans can afford …]

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.twila Jay Twila

    The People’s Republic of China is a paper tiger. Recently, a law was passed making it difficult for Chinese citizens to acquire more than 1 property at a time in a “first tier” city. The government in Beijing is scared to death of a U.S. style “housing crash.” Can’t say I quite blame them.

    India and Brazil are the countries to watch. China also has legitimacy issues that Brazil and India lack.

    • marysaunders

      I was really interested in the observation that there was a detailed cab receipt.  

      The challenge everywhere is transparency.  In Taoism, which may be in a kind of underground resurgency in China, along with Buddhism, there is the notion of a kitchen god, who tracks good and bad behaviors.  My guess is there are parts of China where a kitchen-god outlook is going on.  These parts will do better, but as I do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese, I do not feel competent to parse this.  I do think there are investors who probably can.  

      I agree that Brazil is probably on a good trajectory.  There are parts of Brazil that are amazingly transparent.  See SEMCO, now a world model much admired at MIT, and Curitiba, a city much admired around the world.  Its former mayor has a wonderful TED talk.

      • MikeyrInFL

        The famous investor Jim Rogers says his children are learning Mandarin at his insistence. He has extolled the virtues of China for some time. I still don’t completely understand why. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to get it.

    • MikeyrInFL

      Brazil and India lack “legitimacy issues?” Really?

    • Duggyscooter

      dear tharp
      our crash is bankster ignited ; the fake cental bank , the fed criminal syndicate cartel has indebted you to the hilt ; that is why you and i are having financial pain ; the fed prints dollars and loansharks them to treasury for congress to splurge on various legitimate and illegitimate programs and mandates ; you the taxpayer pay all your taxbux to the irs which funnnels txbx to bondholders only  !  congress only spends borrowed bux ; bux borrowed by selling T bonds , a foolish and criminal act  !

  • WW2 VET


  • marysaunders

    I think they are using dollars before the dollars tank, and they are employing people.  

    As I looked at the second photo, above, permie (permaculturist) that I am, I could see all sorts of potential for that space.  Epcot came to my mind, with vanilla beans and crazy exotic fruits, which a Chinese horticulturist could easily use dollars to cultivate.

    I am reminded of how Chinese economic students laughed, in spite of themselves, when Geithner tried to tell them stuff that he pulls over on U.S. mainstream journalists (this was reported on Seeking Alpha).

    China seeks the world for the best architects and designers.  See the design for Lang Fang by Janine Benyus (of multiple TED-talk fame) and HOK.

    If we get better federal leadership the next time around, the U.S. will do well, when forced to at the very last minute.

    • Duggyscooter

      federal leadership is controlled by megga banxx and transnat ceos; slum dog media is murdocked ; you get very little real info in the infotainment slumdog media  ; most are ardently opinionated on crud such as casey anthony as opposed to who really controls ; lending ; interest rates ; forclosures; inflation; indebting gov’t and its people ;
      carlin was pretty accurate in his clip on education etc

      George Carlin – Education and the Elite

  • Johnstevens1943

    Hi Tim,
    That Manila airport is def a joke! WE flew outta there 3 diff times, with 3 long delays!  They let EVERY plane sit on the runway many many minutes, b4 they are even allowed to leave. And even line em up to get on the runawy to leave. Watta joke that is!
    Personally, I belive the unions are the cause of all that mayhem!
    I live in Cagayan de Oro now for going on 3 years now.

  • http://twitter.com/pdtrading Peter Davis

    I find the media’s love fest with China to be more than a little funny. I’ve been hearing about this same stuff for a while. Seems to be like the global powers are playing a massive shell game.

    It is truly amazing to me that people can collectively be so stupid. But as Tommy Lee Jones summed it up in Men in Black:

    “A person is smart. People are dumb.”

  • Not impressed

    Really?  You’re asking for comments?  Is the moderator going to delete this one too, because it happens to offer a disagreement to your simple thesis?

    It always amazes me that people who are, apparently, for the first-time visiting a continent sized nation like China (larger than the US + Europe combined) feel qualified to comment on these issues.

    FYI, Guangzhou literally ships out 1 million people EVERY DAY during peak travel season by train (as migrant workers return home during the Spring Festival holiday).  And if you had visited the old train station, you would’ve seen a huge mass of people yesterday as well.

    The new south station is for the high speed rail system.  At present, that high speed rail only connects Wuhan and Guangzhou.   Within the next 12 months, the high speed rail system going to that station will extend all the way to Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. 

    Open your eyes.  If this is the quality of the typical China bear, I’m awfully tempted to get long FXI yet again.

  • Jessfarr

    This may show some hope for the American economy as it might indicate Geihtner and Bernanke have pulled a Jim Rogers and left the building moving to China.

    • Duggyscooter

      jess ; tim treasury prints and sells t bonds ; bennie bankie buys t bonds with counterfeit dollars called federal reserve notes !  they aren’t going to abandon that hot dog stand anytime soon

  • Glemanski

    Sounds like a bigger version of what I expereinced living in Bangkok back in the 80’s and 90’s.   All over SE Asia’s major cities I would see construction cranes covering the skyline.  The office buildings and condos (tons of condos) became shoddier and shoddier in construction in what seemed to be a race to get it built and sold before the eventual bust.  Most were empty for years.   I have not been back in 13 years butwonder how many had to be torn down (or fell down???) and what the occupancy rate is today.

  • justinmango

    id say plant food , buy silver and lots of basic supplies . nasa has a great list of emergency supplies listed for its employes on its website. the list are also open to the public. btw , nasa has issued an alert for its employees . it seems space is about to get unfriendly.
    as for china , its a wholly owed illuminati construct. good luck.

    • Duggyscooter

      dear mango , if china = an illuminati construct , how come china still prints its own currency and does not let a private contractor [read roth schield bank] print its currency and loan it to said chinese gov’t ?

  • Mark

    Booms always go pop!  I traveled around southwest China in 1998 and the train stations were absolutely overflowing with people.  So, where did all the people go?  Do they use other, older stations?

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelSeyfried Michael Seyfried

    If the people who are buying OUR debt don’t have any more sense than we do about wasting money then I guess that we are all doomed, doomed I say!!!

  • http://political-religious-connection.blogspot.com/2011/07/state-of-union.html Jpmarvin2002

    iS there anybody that really knows what it does actually mean? It seems to me the whole overspent, over borrowed, over inflated world economic affair had to be instigated by an unnamed source! How else can this insanity be explained?
    It’s hard to imagine so many countries with so many (supposed intelligent leaders) doing what you and I would be prosecuted for, unless they had been handsomely bought and paid for?
    Interestingly, I have arrived at this conclusion because the alternative only leaves a no motive progression into the abys! While I admit that concerning spiritual matters it is often the case, but economically, who would run head long with open eyes into the possibilty of a French Revolution? unless they were promised some form of insulation or reward!

  • KHO

    I have not been to China in a number of years but I spent several years at our ECM visiting several times per year over a 3 year period and here a few observations I made:
    ONE: We passed a huge number of highrise apartment buildings each morning and each evening to and from the factory in south Shanghai and you could actually look right through them….they were completely empty, at least for the 8-10 levels you could observe from the freeway. Dozens of them.
    TWO: When we went to The Bund several times I noticed that many of the highrise buildings already appeared to be erroding and showing rapid deteriation. I say this as I used to go to Chicago and San Francisco often and many of the building there are quite old but appear to be in good shape. It made me wonder how long this new infrastructure would last since most of the Shanghai highrise infrastructure is less than 20 years old.
    THREE: After any trip to Shanghai, my eyes would water for at least 5 weeks after returning home. I know, because my wife always would remind me how red they were for several weeks while they recovered from the pollution in the air there.

    China has many issues to resolve in the future and I do not envy them the job. I believe that their excessive foreign reserves are a result of poor monitary practice and so the Yuan is excessively undervalued, The rapid growth and DFI that occurred in China is a result of this policy and has, in my opinion, distorted both international and their domestic economy to the point that everything is out of balance and the net result is the financial crisis we have today. All of this, I believe, has been driven by the desire of business, government and financial folks to maximize growth and returns, to do so as quickly as possible and by any means including encouragement of government meddling in the free market. It will take years to correct the resultant imbalance and longer if governments continue to try and manipulate the markets and the instigators work to protect their newly attained wealth while markets attempt to readjust.

  • MikeyrInFL

    Remember this country is run by a committee. The best definition of a committee is “a human organism composed of three or more legs and no brain.”  :p

  • finance

    Although the high speed network in China is large it is brand new, and singularly doesn’t meet the needs of ordinary Chinese, since they cannot afford these rates.  Instead, Chinese, when they travel (During New Year) board dilapidated overcrowded trains.  One of China’s main problem is the lack of good roads (being addressed), good rail (they went for HST, instead of run of the mill rail links), and built many many new airports.

    The incentives to build grandiose project is driven by the nature of a command economy.   Cities have been able to “hide” expensive project via Special Purpose Vehicle companies.  There will be huge write offs eventually (as there was in the late 1990s).  The incentive for advancement in public administration in China has been to expand your operations.  the building of the largest mall in the world (99% empty, and still expanding) is just the ultimate expression of this frenzy. 

    However, is it really worse than the CEO of Home Depot walking away with $600 million after trashing the company? 

    • Englishvinal

      You mean like the CEO of Pan Am did?

  • Dalimena

    I was at the same station after a 2day business session in early June. The station looked pretty normal when I passed through. What impressed me while I was in China for 16 days was the growth signs everywhere… I worked with a company, Huiyin, a distributor of appliances. They grew 5 times where they were 4 years ago. An investment banker in Shanghai said this type of growth was “normal” in China or they would not invest… there is a growth story in China. Since human beings have the propensity to swing back and forth, China may be doing this as well as any other organization… just don’t miss the growth:)

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelPorfirio Michael Mason

    Looks like a great place for an Extacy party.

    On another note, America shouldn’t have outlawed those.  If they were still around, they would be one of the few reasons to live there.

    – MPM

  • http://www.facebook.com/frank.dobner Frank Dobner

    There is also an article from today’s New York Times on the debt risk that is happening because of the infrastructure build-up in China. Check it out.


    • Duggyscooter

      frank , good article in the times ; it may suggest that outside bankers are sneaking in to china ; something like our ngo “fed”
      debt is the name of the game ; indebt a nation state and you control it without firing a shot [ well, not many …4 or 5 presidents were shot that opposed “central” banksters …..

  • Warren Rekow

    Now we see that the economies of the US, Europe, and China are all tottering on shaky financial footings. Looking at this prospect for global calamity, it may be that those who successfully survive the prospective challenges could find they have considerable new opportunities available. So, how to successfully endure, and maintain clarity of thought and insight in order to see and act upon opportunities?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1224238488 Sterling Michaels Munce

    It seriously looks like there is a significant opportunity for Americans who are level headed to seize opportunities in China like these vacant cities by understanding that, in reality China has just over 2.1 Billion citizens and not the 1.3 -4 billion that we are being told and that they will be soon migrating those billions to these empty cities out of absolute necessity and will write off the cost of building these 250 cities (which are all about the size of Austin Texas according to an expert on China – sorry no time to source his name and book) but Americans who are able to ride the tide of opportunities that are crawling along instead of steaming along a few years ago – have the possibility of bringing commerce to China that does not yet exist but WILL exist soon out of absolute necessity.

    The world will not collapse but the infrastructure of economics as we know it MUST collapse as it is a International House Of Play Cards and IHOPs will soon have more substance than the world commerce -lol

  • J. procacci

    Wow!  The globe is wholly addicted to the debt drug.  I was shocked at your report, Tim.  It seems as if there’s no end to it.  Spells doom to me.


    • Duggyscooter

      yeah , pro , debt is the darling of the uber class ; set up a privately owned bank ; call it central to fake the pols and the people and let the “central” bank print the dollars and loan them at interest to the respective gov’ts ! and you have a bloodless [ maybe ] coup d’etat ;

  • Susan

    Hi TIm,
    Yeah, we found EXACTLY the same when we arrived in Beijing on an American Airlines flight in early December. Stunning facility but eerily devoid of humans or signs of life. We put it down to the late hour of arrival but found almost the same on departure too…likely the domestic terminal might have been a different story but I have to say it was more than a little spooky. Esp as we were being monitored everywhere by cameras. If this is BEIJING then I can only imagine more ‘obscure’ Chinese cities. Conversely, as an ex-London Investment Trader, widely travelled, I think we may all live to learn from the proactive transportation approach of the Chinese: IF London, Rome, Paris, Athens had the same foresight as to what the growing business and social population was going to require, life in each of those cities wouldn’t be the daily struggle/depression/misery for ALL concerned who have to exist there. For anyone who has ever witnessed an emergency vehicle attempting to get through the streets of London at ANY hour of the day, I am eagerly awaiting the transportation farce which will be known as the London Olympics 2012.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGT5FTVGPEDG5PCO2WFMCUG5WI hackenzac

    It’s like Dubai but bigger, the mother of all pump and dumps with tax payers for the foreseeable future everywhere holding the bag. 

    • Duggyscooter

      dear zak , your analogy seems spot on the money ; i live in hackie nj any chance you do too ? or the other hackensack ?
      anyhow , china has to be the world leader in corruption ; nevertheless , china buys our debt instruments [ t bonds] that are a debt on our taxpayers for the “forseeable future” to use your apt phrase  !  china has been enriching itself at our expense for decades …

  • Charles

    I visited China a year before the crash and things were definitely booming. But I noticed that their infrastructure at all levels was not keeping up. I agree that debt, ghost cities, corruption, unchecked growth, lack of transparency, social unrest, etc. are threats that could trigger downturn in the future. The other thing was the pollution and evironmental damage; I believe that’s another epic crisis looming. China will face some serious challenges in the near future, no question. Do your homework before riding that so called “gravy train”.

  • Piolenc

    There’s no question that China is heading for a fall, but that brings up the question of what happens after. I live in the Philippines, and China is the 800-pound gorilla of this region. What happens to her neighbors when China goes looking for a “short, victorious war” to dampen internal dissent? Taiwan is the obvious target, but the Philippines will have to be neutralized to guard the flanks.

    • Hotozmale

      Agree will USA have the funds to help us? or fight any war.
      Moodys has given us an upgrade the only one I have heard for awhile. 

  • TC

    I experienced the same strange feeling when I was in china just after the 2008 Olympics. I took the high speed train Form Beijing to Tianjin and both terminals were extremely large and very very empty. Unfortunately our host insisted on driving us back to Beijing and I got to experience the famed 6 hour traffic jam getting back into the city, not to mention all the checkpoints you have to go through to prove you allowed in the city.
    I think the most bizarre “empty building” complex I saw in China during my trip I went to the China/Siberian boarder in a small boarder town just outside of Hegang. We were vising friends when the local mayor heard an “American” was in town and insisted we visit his museum he was building. It was a large building in the middle of the woods and it was a rather nice cultural museum but it was very very empty. It wasn’t just the museum this was supposed to be tourist season and the entire town was dead. I remember saying to my girlfriend that we are in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.  
    However, I think the craziest experience I had in China was in a small airport in Jiamusi. I was a approached by the only other two Americans and they started questioning me rather sternly as to why I was so far north in China and who I knew. I told them I could ask the same thing and why the CIA cares about my vacation in China. Their faces went white and they broke off conversation with me and got in the next cab into town.

  • DCObserver

    Thanks Tim for an insightful sharing. It’s always helpful to have on-the-ground info to complete the big picture. I’m from Hong Kong and have heard quite a few stories about doing business in China back 5-10 yrs ago, and they’re most stories of people and companies being burned – back then, there is this saying going around: as a foreigner, if you want to succeed in business in China, there are only 3 ways: 1) invest in and do a small business that’s worth under HKD 100k (tiny business that doesn’t attract too much attention), or 2) invest in and do a mega business worth over HKD 100 million (so that you have clout), or 3) cheat them more than they cheat you. Now I don’t necessarily agree that these are the only three ways, but it does shows the kind of business environment that some parts of China can be. Having said that, because I’ve really lived close to it to see things going on there (and not to say I have no bias because I’m not really on-the-ground inside China), I’ve also marveled at the way things have changed for good in China in such a short period of time, in the last few decades. We do have to remember two things when thinking about China – 1) that it’s a really huge population, and it’s a really tough job to manage and lead such a mass of people – in all fairness, I’d say China has done a much better job than many other large countries in managing its growth and gradually raising the overall standard of living of its people, all the while while keeping this whole mass of people together without much large-scale breakup and without going into a deep pit of corruption like India, and despite some bad horses here and there, overall they do have a good government and good leaders that care about the people’s welfare while they take care of their own interests (unfortunately, I’m not sure we can say the same for the US gov’t here – it seems that in the capitol it’s just self interest and corruption at the expense of the people); and 2) China is on the way up, from being a developing nation to a superpower, and it probably makes sense to draw an analogy of China to a new entrepreneurial startup – what does a new startup do? many of them focus a large part of their energy, time and resources in building up excess capacities, whether it’s intellectual, IP, assets intangible and probably tangible, and other things – primarily because they are expecting a high growth in the coming future. So the early startup stage is also a heavy investment stage, and I think we may be seeing a lot of that happening with the empty buildings and also the high saving rate of the middle class. When the high growth and expansion period comes, a startup will have far less time and energy to put into building up capacity, even if they then have more resources to do so, because then they have to focus on production and operation. So from this angle, perhaps you might say that China is building infrastructure and making investment for becoming a superpower, and that it has been going through that phase in order that it could take up the superpower role later on.
    Just my two cents, comments and correction welcome. Thank you.

  • Keith Leblanc

    Thank you for adding pictures! It is hard to imagine without them. I have no idea why these terminals would be empty with the population being so high in China. I have seen video’s of train stations in China that were so packed, they had to have porters shove people in by force. Maybe they are trying to ensure that this never happens again. I wish I could post the video here. Maybe I can email it?

  • Jarhead

    Building empty apartments and train stations makes more sense to me than than giving billions of dollars to the gloabalist bankers so they can sit around giving each other 26 million dollar bonuses for absolutely nothing. Much more sense.

    • Duggyscooter

      jar right on point ! our american gov’t borrows trillions by selling bonds and then gives $$$ away in foreign aid …how does this make sense ?

  • Dpostma

    What happens when China can no longer sustain this type of activity. I mean it seems to me the primary reason for building this type of infrastructure now is simply to employ millions of people and sort of re-circulate their economy. My question is what happens when , for what ever reason the money runs out? At what point does our debt to them play a huge and desperate factor in this? Very scary and eerie

  • Jdespautz2

    I spent 4+ years in Hong Kong and China – Shanghi and Suzhou – and was amazed at how many subdivisions of 25 to 50 floors are dark in the evening and early morning. No one in the new facility that I was working at lived in areas around the site and traveled Friday to Morning in Ninjing and other surrounding cities up to 120 KM. All had no plans to move around the site in Souzhou.

  • Steventamar

    China has been overbuilt for the past 20 years in infrastructure. I travel between Hong Kong and S. China oftern.

  • BenBassett

    It appears as though you can add a new airport to this list. The airport is set to be bigger than the city of Amsterdam.   http://www.rnw.nl/english/bulletin/dutch-architects-design-beijing-airport

  • Strawman

    Having good infrastructure built up front is a great idea. What seems to happen here in Australia is that infrastructure is upgraded on an ongoing basis, instead of doing the job properly and adding an extra 2 or 3 lanes to a major road, they add just one, then a couple of years later they do it all again, again disrupting traffic for 6-12 months.
    It is probably a good idea to build it while the resources are available. We are past peak oil, maybe even peak food and with the corrupt and evil carbon trading scheme rearing its ugly head, if the warmers have their way it will soon be very expensive to do any of these things.
    While they may be ‘overbuilt’ they will certainly not need to spend the money on development in the future, a future which will likely have a very different financial climate. Entering a period of a global financial collapse with built infrastructure would surely be better than entering it with old and decrepit infrastructure (like the US, with particular note of the rail system and bridges to name just a couple)
    Maybe they are not as dumb as we think.

  • Quantella Owens

    Dear Sirs:

    From now on, I plan on referring to “^&*(%” as “The Country That Can’t Be Named.” If it worked for Rowling, it should work for me. I am SO unbelievably sick of all the focus from every single investment service on China. It’s as if you have all gone mad at the same time. Now, I’m not xenophobic, but when a country goes out of their way to play a song calling Americans stupid while on a diplomatic visit to the White House, when the same country hires white westerners to pose as CEO of their fradulent companies so they can defraud further, when even the entrepreneurs of the country are fleeing in droves, why on Earth do you insist on thinking you know something more as an outsider than they do?

    What about India? Not only is the Indian middle class much richer than most people think, but they are the largest Democratic country on Earth. More and more of their industries are opening to FDI every year and they have a renewed focus on setting up companies in 1 day…start to finish. Try and name one place in the US or “the country that must not be named” where you can do that. I think that basically this country is a nation of “me too.” If Rogers can make a killing in China, then “me too.” But Innovators and Imitators have different definitions for a reason. Rogers is Rogers. Buffett is Buffett. And Burry is who Paulson wishes he was. Paulson’s trade came from Goldman, but Goldman’s trade came from Burry. They stole Burry’s IP, and they sold it and everybody thought they were a genius because they know how to copy. Stop copying and start originating…..preferably with some stock picks and research on Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

    From Muddy Waters Research:
    “The Chinese have an old proverb, “浑水摸鱼” (muddy waters make it easy to catch fish). In other words, opacity creates opportunities to make money. This way of thinking has been part of Chinese culture for centuries, and it is institutionalized in the modern PRC.”


    Quantella Owens,
    Virtuality LLC

    • Allan

      You are exactly what it means “can’t send a duck to an eagle school”  “浑水摸鱼” all it means is “there’re opportunities within crises” most college students knows that.  Chinese proverbs are not centuries old… they are over 5,000 years old Pal.  China has never robbed the US, China lend US over a trillion dollar although knowing the dollar will depreciate… isn’t that taking kindness for fool?  Did China forced Americans to buy their products?  Do you know how many Americans, Germans, Russians are here in China shopping for goods? I was just in Foshan’s Louvre shopping for furniture.

    • Wsiu

      “The Chinese have an old proverb, “浑水摸鱼” (muddy waters make it easy to catch fish). In other words, opacity creates opportunities to make money. This way of thinking has been part of Chinese culture for centuries, and it is institutionalized in the modern PRC.”
      I think you don’t understand CHinese culture. At school as a kid, we learnt that we should be careful of muddy waters. We were never taught to catch fish in muddy water. Teachers, and parents simply remind us to be careful of muddy waters so we would not become the fish.

      You are twisting the proverb into as if Chinese have this evil teachings to youngsters etc. I am sorry Mr. Owens, but you are wrong here. Plain and simple. Wrong.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RepublicConstitution?feature=mhum TruthRegimes

    China has BIG plans for the future of their nation.  The U.S. has zero plans for the future.  The U.S. infrastructure is collapsing into a mess.

    • Duggyscooter

      the uber elite have plans for us , reggie : dictatorship ; amero ; north american union ; debt servitude ; police state [ sorry , i mis-spoke , police state is here now …]

    • Piolenc

      If having plans made a nation great, the Soviet Union would have conquered the world. If freedom is restored in the USA, infrastructure problems will be solved. If not, all the planning in the world won’t make the slightest difference, any more than in the USSR.

      • Allan

        Read Ed Griffin’s “creature” which explains where America has been heading in the past 98 years.  Like the law (US) that the intention is of the essence.  A 98 years hijack… how that happened?

  • JJ

    Presently working in China, in the largest company in the world of it’s kind. It crasched last year and have very difficult times to get back on it’s feet. However, they still continue expanding with new warehouses and appartments for the workers. Workers that are not coming back. It does not look good. JJ

  • Duggyscooter

    china is a rare bird ; china , to my knowledge , OWNS its central bank unlike most countries; this means china can print yuan or renminbi all day long without accumulating debt ; bond debt ; the debt american and most countries accrue by selling t bonds to generate cash in stead of printing the currency within government !

    north korea also won’t let a rogue bankster in to print its currency and lend it to north korea as principle and interest obligations ;  libya has not let a red shield or rockefeller snake in to privately print libyan curency to indebt the government and the people ; any wonder “we” are trying to kill kedafy ?
    venezuela has also been a bad actor ; venezuela so far will not let the red shields in to set up a criminal syndicate bank cartel to privately print venezuealan bolivars and loan them plus vig to the venezualan gov’t as a debt upon the venies ; gb II’s cia sent a hit squad to talk with chavez ;  the welcoming committee was in place ; hugo 10 visitors 0   [ look it up ]

    any wonder why gb II bashed hugo every chance he got even tho hugo offered low cost oil to indigent u s a families ; oil scum like the bushies and carlyles were rebuffed when they tried to buy up the venezuelan wells …. the slum dog media is conditioned to put down chavez at every turn ….

    everybody is operating as if things will go on forever the way they are ; not so ; some predict the end of life as we know it in 2012 ; it could happen before i finish this post or it could take 3 years ; not much longer ; the world economy is in ruins ; when collectively we meaning the governments of the indentured world admit default , things will unravel rather quickly ; our respective governments have let the bank barons impoverish us ; the fed was spawned in 1913

    america runs on electicity ; oil ; gas ; coal ; atomic reaction; are the fuels ; maybe , just maybe a “supply chain” malfunction might occur if the dollar becomes shit ? who is going to run the electricity generating stations when the dollar craters ?????? when the dollar goes weimar [ look it up ] will you or anybody report to a job ? 
    will anybody do anything when there is effectively no pay ?  better have some mre’s , a water filter,  a 9 and a sub zero sleeping bag …..jmo

  • Jkshipley

    I would wager that during the New Year migration the building is too small.

  • Peng

    If you have ever boarded a train in China around the Spring festival season when far more than 100 million people travel to their families you will get an idea why these trains stations are so large. I have never ever anywhere in the four continents I have traveled seen such crowded places as the trains and train stations in the big cities of China during this all important holiday time.

  • Big Red

    Dear Tim, thanks for filling in for Simon.
     It’s nice to get the REAL skinny than the leftist garbage and lies form the lamestream media.

  • Protrader

    Will the new train stations and ghost cities still be empty 10, 20 years from now? It’s hard to be a visionary or we’d all be retired from modest investments made in Microsoft, Apple or Walmart years back. Immediate gratification is the norm nowadays. Patience and foresight….what’s that?

  • BobsYrUncle

    Hello there,
    Chinese buildings – They aren’t really built the same, and they DEFINATELY don’t get maintained the same way westerners expect.  The lifetime of some developments is short. 

  • Cerritosau

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your adventure at the Gangzou and Wuhan Stations ! China is indeed an eye opener when travelling there. Wonderful experience, although sometimes quite exasperating !
    Looking forward to hearing more of your various experiences in unexplored territories, unexplored by most foreigners into their country! I used to venture into many off the beaten track places in countries where I did not even speak the language, but that is long ago! Keep up your enthousiasm and your stamina Tim. L.Kreemer

  • www

    … Expat’ed from the US in 2007 guessing regular citizens would be fleeced and thinking that Asia may be first out of the gates once the ‘world corrected’ … correction would be an understatement to reconcile all the world debt and problematic types of derivatives existing.  Looks like the ‘powers that be’ (world’s central bankers & plutocrats) are floating the Titanic (flown under joint flags: US, CN, Eur, JP) just long enought to make off with the deck chairs. Meanwhile, the ‘passengers’ (middle and middle upper class) get ready for an ice cold bath with the ‘steerage’ (lower classes who the plutocrats paid off using ‘passenger’ money to create the ‘aire of democracy’).  It shall be an interesting decade coming I imagine ….

  • Corinnanairn

    What you said about “the party probably wanted the train station to have a 3rd story for grandeur” reminded me of when I was living in Shanghai for a couple years (2008-2010).  They were hosting the world expo, and as they were building the site, each country’s pavilion was allowed to be 20m high… except for China’s which was allowed to be 60m high.  Go figure!

  • Amerfire

    Never been to China but read recently about these ghost cities and how as if they are expecting a real world catastrophe that would eventually bring enough people maybe even from other countries to occupy and use this facilities. Again just a thought I dont know geographically, how this cities are distributed in China but maybe its a preparation for something wicked this way comes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000147275209 Jake Hall

    China is overbuilding. Once we stop being able to afford Chinese goods, who will buy them? My nation is the least productive thanks to bass-ackward trade deals, while the Europeans are more productive, more INNOVATIVE, and haven’t shredded their protectionist trade policies outside of the EU trade treaties.

    China will come when we kick the bucket. It won’t be pretty; a nation with 900 million peasants/working class stuck in a revolution with a destruction thus far unseen in human history.

  • Richard

    They have the future in their planning. This station serves several routes of railway. Many routes are still under construction. New lines to Shenzhen and Hong Kong. New lines to Fujian province to the east, and Guangxi province to the west. People who do not understand their future plans should shut up.
    You don’t expect the train station to reach capacity right after it opens.

    • Allan

      Controlled medias main job is to influence.  As to setup “synthetic stirrings”… I cannot be more specific than that.
      Controlled medias have been ordered to brain wash the public that China is a threat to US and etc. However, China has never invaded any other countries nor have they ever instigated trouble in order to start a war according to world history.  They just wanted to be left alone and have the choice to play or not play. 

  • AryanNomad

    I still don’t see how China is overbuilt. I would like to see some stats on the commercial property per capita. There is no way it is anywhere near as over-built as the U.S. You have 1.3 billion and hundreds of millions of people about to enter the middle class. These buildings may be vacant now but not for long. The media’s China love affair is one issue but being bearish on China should be based on fact. And as someonelse pointed out, it is better for a government to invest their billions in infrastructure than financial wizardry. The latter leads to very little job comparison as the U.S has seen and our infrastructure is in a terrible state.

  • Richard

    They have the future in their planning. This station serves several
    routes of railway. Many routes are still under construction. New lines
    to Shenzhen and Hong Kong to the south. New lines to Fujian province to the east, and
    Guangxi province to the west. People who do not understand China’s future
    plans should learn. You don’t expect the train station to reach capacity right after it opens.

    Also, the author said there is only one train at the station.
    First, the reason is that only the Wuhan-Guangzhou line is operational now. A few new lines will commence over the next few years.
    Second, the trains that are running the same line are just somewhere along the route. They don’t all sit around idle at the same station.

    It is important to remember that the highspeed railway network is not complete yet, many new lines yet to commence. These train stations are designed to handle the capacity in the future.

  • Derek

    This BIG station is under-utilized at the present because only the Guangzhou-Wuhan high speed line is open as of now.  The station was opened for business last year.  The author of the article fail to mention the following:  1. Wuhan to Beijing extension will open soon.  2.  Guangzhou to Zhuahi HSR under construction.  3.  Guangzhou to Shenzhen HSR opening soon.  4.  Shenzhen to Hong Kong HSR under construction.  5.  Guangzhou to Shenzhen to Xiamen HSR opening soon.  6.  Guangzhou to Nanning HSR under construction.  7.  Guangzhou to Guiyang HSR under construction.  8.  Guangzhou to Hainan HSR planned.  Does anyone still think it is a mistake to build such a big station?  The story is basically the same for the other big stations.  The high speed rail network is still under construction.  Judge in a few years when all is completed.

    • Onlyihavethisname

      yeah, they are criticizing them because they have had the sense to do some forward planning! Unlike in UK where they just build something and many years later it is horribly overcrowded, a complete chaos, and nobody knows where to go because new bits are continually added on.

    • Sharondugan

      Yeah, in a few years, we’ll be able to judge a lot of things better.  Simon’s experience reminds me of a psych class I took wherein the professor held up a quarter & pronounced that everyone would see it differently.  He was proven to be correct.  Before his demonstration, I could not imagine how anyone would see a quarter differently from others.

  • Adrian Armas

    Have you ever thought they’re actually that empty, BECAUSE of the trains rolling at that high speed, and civilians being transported quickly enough? They’re going home, they actually don’t like hanging out in train stations :)))))

    • Avantr

      fast trains will never be responsible for that size facility to be that empty
      no one likes hanging out in train stations – but why would a facility be built that gigantic with only one train running through at a time ????

  • Andy

    I am bit confused about the country’s outstanding local government debt… is that the country’s debt (country being China of course), or is that the local gov’t debt ? (Local being Guangzhou)

  • Sirknightofni

    Lots of people say China owns the United States, but if they’re spending money on ridiculous amounts of useless junk that will lead them into a similar collapse, will it really matter whether they “own us” or not?

  • Ingraham Effingham

    This, along with the massive empty sky scrapers im the mongolian highlands, is in preparation for the rising sea levels from the melting ice caps.

  • maromiga

    Where is the high speed rail in the US?

    • http://twitter.com/bandholz Eric Bandholz

      Look to the sky for your answer.

    • Sharondugan

      It’s where no one “in charge” has figured out where to put it so it would really be helpful.  We’re a cynical, suspicious, antisocial bunch of mavericks in America, the descendants of those outcasts from other countries that didn’t want them.  Non-compliant, I believe, is today’s label for us, & thank God.  The government hasn’t yet been able to dumb us or drug us down enough – yet – to herd us into the big cities where light rail would actually be helpful after they’ve sold/mortgaged our private property rights to the global elite.

  • The_UK_is_a_corporatocracy

    China has more money than what it knows what to do with.

    If they are expecting inflation what’s wrong with building things now, before the cost of building it in the future rises?

    Have some assets or buy more US treasuries? It’s a tester isn’t it?

  • Dragos2112

    Same as Arizona and its empty cities/suburbs…
    Am at a loss as to where all this is going, as none of it makes sense.
    Things adjust without merit or real support, etc.
    Doesn’t look like any part of the world is immune to the ghost capital, but everyone is on some sort of mystery ship sailing off into a great unknown…?
    On a practical basis, I ask exactly how much of anyone’s holdings one can drink or eat…?
    Too many wanna-bees, who believe that a load of those left will follow them; and this after those in charge tried to starve them.
    Looks like most will be busy seeing to their own no matter what their position, military, police, etc.
    I hope the coming social unrest includes a really new start, a regression back towards those times when there was either substance or you went hungry.
    This ain’t gonna be pretty…great depression indeed!   

  • regnad kcin

    Tim, It might have been more accurate if you had reported on the crowd situation in Guangzhou Main Station particularly the millions who flow (!) through Guangzhou Main Station in the Spring Festival.  For those who lack understanding of the Chinese Situation it is very easy to find fault with the system, and much more difficult to do anything positive to help the people.

    It seems to be popular to write about Ghost Towns in China and those who live half way around the world from China have no way to know the truth about what is going on here.  How about an article revealing the distortion generating Western media (even underground media like Sovereign Man) that writes about ghost towns.  Maybe you could find a ghost writer for such a piece?

  • James

    The author obviously don’t know China and its plan. The Guangzhou station is one of the key hub for a network of high speed trains running all over China. You can reach Beijing from Hong Kong in just 7 hours. It will be an achievement that will shock the world. As we speak, the Shenzhen Guangzhou line will start this month, making the trip in just 30 minutes. Really sweet!

  • Allan

    Hi Ed,
    I am a retired CA real estate consultant living in China.  I was in Guangzhou on July 7, 2011 and the city was packed with people as usual.  As far as the new train station goes it usually take a little time before people get adapted to it.  There are buses, limos and private cars as other options   As far as China’s real estate market goes… apartments and condos are selling extremely well!  Of course the controlled media have been ordered to trash China’s economy at all cost!  However, they can’t fool the more sophisticated Americans tho.
    China came a long way within ten years; hence, there are still much work to be done… after all, 14 billion is quite a population for any government to handle. The Chinese government’s intention is to improve their citizens living quality and working environment and things are improving everyday as we speak.

    • rickyp

      So does this mean that you agree with this description of the Guangzhou South Station or not? I can’t really tell by your statement. From Simon’s description, it sounds like a barren wasteland. I can’t remember the last time I was in an airport and it looked like the way Simon describes it here. I can say that if this is what it’s like in many of China’s developing cities, then that sounds like a scary thing. The last thing we need is China to be on a bubble like this. Makes our bubble look like a cakewalk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emmanuel-Goldstein/100002221228322 Emmanuel Goldstein

    You forget your important point of view. Some sites have “dual use” in mind. They can be used for other things, when times comes (like a War, etc, etc). This is all over the world, there are many buildings with “dual use” in mind.

  • http://www.animalsdinosaursandbugs.com/The-Future.htm Peter Legrove

    When i was there last year i had to wait over an hour to get on a train because they were all full. I think the trains leave every 20 mins. Amazing trip. That station is utterly incredible. Anyway school finishes this week, next week the school holidays start so it will be full on. Try getting a train then.

  • Thegman77

    It is difficult for Westerners to understand China’s mindset.  They truly think in 100 year terms.  As well, they consider *anyone* who is not Chinese to be a barbarian.  I have a business associate who lived there 20 years, spoke the language fluently and was married to a Chinese woman…who nevertheless knew he was “underclass” to the Chinese and they subtly never let him forget it.

  • Renrah

    Well of course Centrally planned states needs empty railway stations FOR THEIR EMPTY CITIES, in our 1984 world this makes perfect sense to me. Great example of government allocation of resources. Who cares that these are empty- the friends of the Communist party made a great deal of money building this stuff, just like over here (  “Green Jobs” – GE windmills etc; anybody ? )  

    Apparently the Chi-Coms at least got something real for their “stimulus”, we just got 1 $ TRILLION laundered through the Democrat party and their followers. Obama actually chuckled when he said “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected,”

    As far as this Radical-In-Chief goes, I am reminded of the quote :
    you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually
    come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the
    State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military
    consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the
    State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the
    mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the
    greatest enemy of the State.”
      Joseph Goebbels

  • Sharondugan

    A snake, eating its own tail, just like us.

  • Sharondugan

    What’s wrong with China owning us is this:  Nothing.  It’s our own government we need to fear.  They are stealing our private property through eminent domain, SWAT raids, floods, fires, legislation, regulation & any way they can for their own gain, for Agenda 21, for paying their debt, you name it. We might actually be better off with China’s government running our country.  At least, they’re building things that are attractive & useful. Our own government doesn’t have enough money left over to do that for us after their graft & fraud has been deducted from our hard earned tax dollars.  And, after the money has trickled down through all the bureaucracies, back into our communities. 

  • H00v3r

    So, like, I’m just curious how many of the socks’ comments posted here originate from Chinese IP’s. I suppose these cavernous spaces would be a good place to escape PLAN tanks.

  • Allan

    Hey Duggy, Like the expression goes “like a chicken talking to a duck” and you can’t send a duck to an eagle school!  Majority of the brainwashed general public will never see through the woods.  While criticizing China how did America got sabotaged for 98 years by FRS and not know it and still won’t believe it???

  • cerberus

    I just arrived back from a week trip to fujian, china and from what I saw the high speed rail lines from fuzhou to xiamen were packed with only standing tickets which I had to wait for aswell. The airport was more packed then I have ever seen from xiamen to taiwan.

  • Waynepacific

    A better expenditure of a nations wealth than military hardware employed in killing hundreds of thousands such as in the USA. These trains do some good and will be much more useful in the future. And of course they employed hundreds of thousands in the construction, which is better than sitting at home drawing unemployment checks as they do in the USA.

    • Diogenes_

       They aren’t better. They drive up costs of valuable capital like steel,money and energy that would have been better used by actual entrepreneurs. If people on unemployment are paid to do anyhting, it should only be looking for a job.

      • Simon

        @d02dce14f7d2a2b24a02f2b4ffd281a2:disqus that comment is only valid if the money is being wasted on infrastructure that isn’t going to be used. If it’s planning for the future and improving the nation’s capital assets, then it isn’t necessarily true that it can be used more efficiently by others.  I’m not saying you are wrong, just saying that there’s a big “if” you have to mention.

  • SYMT

    I have been reading the Sovereign Man for over a year. Even before I started reading this informative blog, I was already convinced that America was not the “end all and be all”.  So, I have always imaged living outside the country.  However, I am “stuck”.  I am a math teacher with a twelve year old.  I am interested in getting my “ducks in the row”, but haven’t a clue on how.  I have never had any experience outside the US, need some information on how to begin my search with limited experience and resources.

    I’m There

  • philm

    I forwarded this post to my brother who goes to china roughly once a quarter. I’ve posted his reponse below:

    witnessed the same type of thing in Beijing when
    they first opened the line there but as they got all the components working it
    has become very crowded.  I don’t think this person understands China very
    well.  He should repost in a year or two what the situation is.  I am
    sure he wil find it diferent

  • Amitsaraf21

    baseless pointless meaningless article. 

    • Lefeng

      baseless pointless meaningless comment.

  • Abx2121

    I wonder when golden gate bridge was first built, how much traffic
    was there to justify the expense. It is amazing that the bridge can
    still handle the traffic after so many years.

  • Jhawktree

    – Apparently, the author has never experienced “ChunYun”, the two weeks during Chinese Lunar New Year where hundreds of millions of people are on the move.
    – The station is supposed to be built for the future. They have to plan the capacity ahead of the time. – China’s urbanization rate is still 55%. In the next two decades 30% more would move to the cities and more people will move between cities and towns.

  • James

    I tend to thank that they while wake up and like any loan officer will collect on there deit–the question then becomes what will we as the debtor must pay it will much more than experted

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X2G5N3YBKM64XYUE6IPTPP55RU Harold

    Wow, what a joke of a writeup and obvious propaganda targeted against a nation that the author has not even an inkling of an idea about.  China builds serious infrastructure and tends to do it right.  China also plans for the future.  This station is planned to be a major hub in the very near future and was built to handle that capacity.  Go take a look at Beijing South station, it’s the second largest in Asia and constantly packed.  High speed rail tickets are cheaper than flying and the difference in time is negligible.  Seeing as airports are constantly packed, this is a great alternate and the national investment is very much worth it.  Come time for CNY, every one of these stations will be packed, as air travel has been overcrowded for years now.  

    As mentioned in other comments, China does not plan for “average usage”, China plans for “peak usage” and “future usage”.

    Removing stress on regular rail also allows for more freight which is desperately needed.  I have lived in China for 7 years now and have many friends who have lived here for 20+.  It seems as if the only ones who share the opinions of the author have either never been here or have been here a few weeks at most before running off to tell of “strange stories from the orient”.  Get over it, China is not the US, China will never be the US, no matter how much you rant and rave and spin lies, China isn’t going to fail.  We have a government that actually gives a damn about the people.

    As a final note, I do not really understand why the author chose to take a taxi, there is a perfectly fine subway line that goes direct to the station.  This is a common theme for all major stations now, allowing for seamless mass transit.  Just today, in fact, I got on the subway outside of my hotel in Nanjing, rode it to Nanjing South, got on the G120 to Beijing (all non-stop trains were sold out), arrived at Beijing South, took the 4 to the 10 and the 10 to the 13 and walked approximately 1km back home (yes, I could have taken the bus if I wanted to).  Total time of journey? About 5 hours from my hotel in Nanjing to my home in Beijing, no cars required.  Total price? 450RMB, which is entirely reasonable.  Over here, I know what my tax dollars pay for because I reap the benefits of the investments.  What do your tax dollars pay for?

    • http://www.referencepointtherapy.com/blog Simon R

      Harold, I appreciate your boots on the ground comments.

      However I feel that in your enthusiasm for Chinese investment, you might have missed one of the key points of the article which is “can they keep paying for this?”.

      Investing for future peak demand, rather than present-day sustainable demand, is expensive because you don’t have the revenue stream to repay the investment.  And that was what I got from this article – contrast current debt levels with current revenue streams.  It’s no good talking about future revenue projections if you can’t pay today’s bill.

      I am not invalidating your points, merely saying that it’s a complicated issue – much more complicated than your reply indicates.  I get that you love the trains, and everything is great whilst the economy is moving.  The question is only “is this sustainable?”.

      Simon R

  • Ken

    In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, many of Beijing’s older architectural treasures underwent extensive restoration before the Games. Olympics-timed and partly Olympics-driven infrastructure projects, including subways, roads, a rail link to the airport
    and its new world’s-largest terminal, and environmental improvements were part of a $41 Billion pre-Games construction blitz.

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