When we were arranging our tour with Wendy Wu Tours we specified we wanted to travel by train as much as possible, and they delivered. We only had one domestic flight, all other inter city transfers were done by high speed train. The fact that it was first class didn’t hurt either.
We were proudly informed that China has more high speed trains than the rest of the world combined. I don’t know if that is true, but they do have a lot of them. Most of the time the seats in first class were all full and the crush of people coming out of the rest of the train indicated that ridership was pretty good. Once again, having the population base helps, and the political power to dictate that the lines will go where they need to go without interference from the souls who may have lived in the way. Everything is give and take, but I can see where with this many people trying to appease the masses would simply bring the country to a grinding halt. Not sure I totally agree, but I see the argument.
Our experience on Chinas train system was entirely positive. We travelled from Chongqing (largest city in China) to Chengdu, Chengdu to Xi’an, Xi’an to Beijing, and Beijing to Qingdao by rail. I would use rail even more if I were to return. I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to this unique corner of our planet.