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Bombardier Abroad

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Member Reviews

In a lot of ways, Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession does not live up to the title. Maybe putting them the other way around would have been better. The majority of the book is about three cases of dispossession, and how the Bombardier company ties in. For those who don't know, Bombardier is a Canadian company that creates transportation products of various types (rail, air, sea), and in the last year drew the ire of American company Boeing, leading to Trump imposing massive tariffs.

First is the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the ways that Han Chinese are displacing the native Tibetans. This chapter focuses on the building of a train line to Tibet, which is being used to bring in Han Chinese tourists and businesses, as well as troops to prevent unrest, and transport out the product of Chinese-owned and controlled mines. But the only tie-in for Bombardier is that they sold a number of train cars to China for the line. The main objection was that Bombardier didn't cut off the chance of any business in China by refusing to make train cars for them.

The second chapter covers a South African high-speed rail line that Bombardier was a part of a coalition of companies that bid on the project. In this case, the author doesn't really make the case that the railway was completely bad, just that it doesn't do anything for poor people who have transportation issues. The railway is designed to service business classes moving between large cities without any service to poorer communities that need better transportation more. While I don't disagree that the money is not well aimed, I don't see it as quite so immoral as the author implies for Bombardier to be involved.

The third chapter deals with another railway line in Israel. Now this project had heavier moral implications, since there were moves to appropriate land from Palestinians for the line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But while the project is problematic, Bombardier has little involvement. They sold some train cars to Israel, and not for the first time, and the author implies that Bombardier should have take the high road, and again refuse to be even tangentially involved.

Basically, the summation is that a company with shareholders should cut off avenues of business. Or that since Bombardier has received funds from the Canadian government, the government should order them not to do business (non-military) in countries that Canada has reasonably congenial relationships with. Neither option sounds terribly realistic. Perhaps one could say that Bombardier should have pushed the South Africa project to include more options for future expansion that would benefit the poorly serviced communities.

I sympathised with the urge, but it really didn't make much sense. I think the author would have been better served by writing a book about dispossession, perhaps using railway lines as a common thread, but the focus on one company weakened some of the point.
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