The concrete floors shine in the new US$100 million factory on Chicago’s far South Side. Towering shelves painted in blue, yellow and red are mostly empty. The quiet is eerie, punctuated only by a forklift’s occasional beep.
On a bank of two-metre-high platforms rest the steel shells of five 15-metre-long passenger carriages destined for the Chicago Transit Authority. Inside them, clutches of workers trace multicoloured bundles of wire.
Outside, others in safety helmets and glasses attach heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment to the undercarriages. All work for the Chicago subsidiary of CRRC Corporation. And what they are doing scares the hell out of some American manufacturers and Washington politicians.