New York Times columnist Tom Friedman bows to no man in his enthusiasm for all things Chinese, and regularly titilates his readers with stories of how China is rapidly catching up to, and will soon outstrip the US in economic and technological achievement.

Ying Ma poured some cold water on Friedman’s ideas here a couple of days ago, citing high-speed rail as one area where China’s apparently rapid progress isn’t all that it seems. Like many Chinese achievements of recent years, its rail projects have been plagued by corruption and corner cutting, and the results haven’t lived up to the hype.

As if to underscore Ma’s point, one Chinese ‘bullet’ train crashed into another, stationary one yesterday – on a bridge, of all places, causing a couple of carriages to topple over the side. At least 35 people are dead.

Mass-transit accidents happen all over the world, of course, but China’s rail network is one of Friedman’s favorite hobby horses (see here and here, for example). Yesterday’s accident is a reminder of the chaos and carnage that are often the by-products of what Friedman likes to call China’s ‘moon shots’.

The heading on Ma’s piece likens Friedman to Walter Duranty for his gullibility, but a better comparison would be Homer Simpson in the Monorail episode. If China’s rail bosses ever need a test-driver for some hastily built 300mph death-trap, they know who to call.