Since the 1980s, Chinese officials and technocrats have been presenting a rosy image of high-speed railway growth under the label of ‘Chinese Speed’. In this context, the Ministry of Railways conceived of the acceleration of train speeds as a techno-fix to the problems that public transportation and the national economy faced in post-socialist China. In the twentieth-first century, however, a mounting social critique of high-speed rail in China demonstrated public distrust of this technocratic order. In response to these criticisms, after the Wenzhou train collision on 23 July 2011, the MoR refashioned a technological-determinist mentality of speed into a discourse highlighting techno-risk regulation and economic rationales. This move shows how the meaning of Chinese Speed is a multiply authored cultural idea that has been transformed through technocratic–civil contestation.