When China's first subway, Beijing Line 1, went into operation in 1969, underground trains had been running beneath London for 106 years.
Despite the West's head start, however, Chinese train manufacturers have been enhancing technologies and designs, and have now become competitors in the global supply chain for urban transit.
Consider Boston, in the United States, which this month will receive its first batch of subway trains manufactured by China for the new Orange Line.
The manufacturer is the State-owned CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co, a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.
It marks the first time a Chinese company has exported its subway trains to the US with complete intellectual property.
The subway trains can run at a maximum speed of 102 kilometers per hour and have a service life of 30 years.
The Chinese company will manufacture 152 rail cars for the city's Orange Line and 132 cars for the Red Line to replace existing cars, which were built by Hawker Siddeley Canada from 1979 to 1981.
"China's rail vehicle makers are winning deals not only due to lower prices, but also with advanced technology standards and good after-sales services," said Jia Bo, vice-president of CRRC MA Corp, the group's subsidiary in the US.
The Chinese firm has met more than 120 standards required by US government branches and civil associations. It is also the first time all systems of the vehicle complied with US requirements and standards.
Hong Haifeng, a technical manager at CRRC Changchun, said: "These standards can ensure the safety of passengers when two six-carriage subway trains collide at a speed of 40 km per hour."
The company took 80 measures to reduce the vehicle's weight by 1.8 metric tons to 33 tons, which was a major reason for the Chinese train maker to win the deal instead of US companies.
In 2016, CRRC Sifang Co Ltd was awarded a .3 billion contract by the Chicago Transit Authority to supply more than 840 new rail cars to the city. So far, CRRC's orders of rail cars from the United States have reached 1,579.
Moreover, with an investment of 0 million, CRRC Sifang's plant in Chicago is expected to become the company's North American hub for the assembly of rail cars.
Zhao Ying, a researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The Belt and Road Initiative also presents a huge opportunity for China's subway makers, as countries and regions related to the initiative have less-developed infrastructure due to financial restraints."