China's high speed rail system is more than impressive, to the extend that it almost like a miracle comes true overnight. It took less than 30 minutes to travel from Tianjin to Beijing, two cities 130 km apart. The great majority of China's high speed rail system are based on traditional wheeled technology, but it also includes first and only commercial meglev line in Shanghai which has been operating since 2004. A second longer distance meglev line is under construction. Anyone impressed by Nissan's Zoom commercial should watch the meglev train passing by: it zooms away in twice the speed without the zoom (sound).
In the past several years, and in the next several years to come, the annual spending on high speed rail system averages about $110B, far more than President Obama proposed to spend in the US in total. To give Liu some credits, the rail system was able to acquire and digest technology from all over the world in a short time, then compete against suppliers in France, Japan and Canada in the world market. In contract, China's auto industry has been cloning foreign cars for as long as people can remember (copying the Soviet in the 50s, German and Japanese in the 80s, and copying everyone including India since 90s), but still has not find its legs to stand on.
Not to say, people are stunned to hear the news of Liu being sacked. Liu had been busy inspecting operations all over the country because the Spring Festival migration rush (300 million people would travel twice in a period of 2 months, and they are traveling the same direction. There is an award winning documentary on this great migration: Last Train Home in case you are interested. It's subtitled and quite entertaining). A few hours earlier Liu was speaking on public TV, a few hours later, new Rail Minister moved in already.
The rational inference is that it's more of a public struggle that we still don't know the details. However, no one should be surprised if the government describe Liu as a corrupted criminal in the trail to come. The key of the communists' ruling in China, relies on illegally sharing treasure and resources. People in China often say that, and officials say this too, if all officials (we are talking roughly 10 million people here) were lined up and shot, some of them would have been wronged according to the Criminal Code; however, if half of them were shot, regardless how you picked them up, there would be some who escaped the law. The idea is that the communists rulers intentionally to encourage officials to break the law (otherwise, you will be kicked out of the political hierarchy), so that they will be loyal to the Party because only Party can protect them from being prosecuted. In other words, greed and fear of the 80 million Party members plus about the same amount of government officials is all that supports the regime at this time.