CRRC already has a large global footprint, with projects in more than 100 countries. Recent years have seen rapid growth of the company’s international business. For example, from June 2015 to November 2016, its overseas markets have grown from about 90 countries and regions, to 102, accounting 83 percent of countries and regions with railroads. This is in accordance with the company’s motto to "go abroad" (走出去) and take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative to win connectivity infrastructure contracts worldwide. Most of these contracts consist of diesel locomotives, coaches and wagons, but CRRC is also winning contracts for electric locomotives and urban transportation systems, expanding even to Europe and the United States. In recent years, some of CRRC’s signature wins overseas have a $10 million order of underground-train parts from Transport for London (2016), a $178 million deal with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2017), or a $278 million contract with Argentina's Ministry of Transport (2018).
But CRRC’s international strategy is facing difficulties and has already encountered major setbacks.In 2017, the completion rate of signed export contracts was only 63 percent, and the value of contracts signed in the first three quarters of the 2018 amounted to only 20 percent of the annual target. CRRC is not a stand-alone case, China’s railway equipment companies have all recently received a reality check. For instance, CRSC (China Railway Signal & Communication Co., Ltd) signed only 10 percent of its 2018 overseas annual target in the first half of the year.
This is particularly true of the crown’s jewel for export markets, i.e. high speed rail (HSR), in which a number of Chinese companies are active: CRRC, CREC,CRCC, CMC, etc… A joint report by the Financial Times and CSIS in 2017 revealed that among the eighteen China-invested or funded high-speed rail projects, only one has been completed, and seventeen were at different stages of planning and construction. From the awarding of the project until the opening of the line, the Ankara-Istanbul Line took more than 8 years to be completed, while such a project would have only taken three to four years in China. Two years later, only one more project was completed (the Haramain Line connecting Medina and Mecca), while the remaining projects have made little progress.
| ||Project||Status in 2019|
|4||Medina-Mecca (Haramain Line)||Operational|
|6||Vientiane – Kunming ||Underway|
|7||Bangkok-Nong Khai (Thailand)||Underway|
|8||Bangkok - Kuala Lumpur||Delayed|
|10||Kuala Lumpur - Singapore||Delayed|
|12||Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville ||Signed|
|13||Karachi- Peshawar (Mainline-1)||Delayed|
|14||High Speed 2 (HS2)||Delayed|
|15||Puerto de Ilo / Brazil - Puerto Santos / Peru (Central Bi-Oceanic railway)||Signed|
|16||Yekaterinburg - Chelyabinsk (Russia)||Signed|
|17||Muse - Mandalay ||Delayed |
|18||Samara - Togliatti ||Signed|
From a Chinese perspective, a Siemens-Alstom merger would have indeed added pressure on CRRC. A CRRC source worried that "The Siemens-Alstom rail merger will affect CRRC’s international business environment, curb the pace of CRRC’s internationalization to a certain extent, and further increase the entry barrier of the European market for CRRC." The commercial councilor of the Chinese Embassy in Germany, Weidong Wang noted that "being backed by two major countries, Germany and France, will not only lead to an increased ability to win tenders and to secure financing in Europe, but also gains in cost reduction and development resources." Such an assumption mirrors the Chinese domestic narrative that the CNR/CSR merger resulted in gains in cost reduction (1+1<2) and performance (1+1>2). But it overlooks the issue of excess capacity in the follow-up of the merger, a problem still to be solved, and remains silent on the question of subsidies.