China Table of Contents
Inland navigation is China's oldest form of transportation (see fig. 17). Despite the potential advantages of water transportation, it was often mismanaged or neglected in the past. Beginning in 1960 the network of navigable inland waterways decreased further because of the construction of dams and irrigation works and the increasing sedimentation. But by the early 1980s, as the railroads became increasingly congested, the authorities came to see water transportation as a much less expensive alternative to new road and railroad construction. The central government set out to overhaul the inefficient inland waterway system and called upon localities to play major roles in managing and financing most of the projects. By 1984 China's longest river, the Chang Jiang, with a total of 70,000 kilometers of waterways open to shipping on its main stream and 3,600 kilometers on its tributaries, became the nation's busiest shipping lane, carrying 72 percent of China's total waterborne traffic. An estimated 340,000 people and 170,000 boats were engaged in the water transportation business. More than 800 shipping enterprises and 60 shipping companies transported over 259 million tons of cargo on the Chang Jiang and its tributaries in 1984. Nationally, in 1985 the inland waterways carried some 434 million tons of cargo. In 1986 there were approximately 138,600 kilometers of inland waterways, 79 percent of which were navigable.
The Cihuai Canal in northern Anhui Province opened to navigation in 1984. This 134-kilometer canal linking the Ying He, a major tributary of the Huai He, with the Huai He's main course, had an annual capacity of 600,000 tons of cargo. The canal promoted the flow of goods between Anhui and neighboring provinces and helped to develop the Huai He Plain, one of China's major grainproducing areas.
Data as of July 1987