Nav Search

Transportation boost puts region on road to riches

By Cui Jia and Mao Weihua Source: China Daily Updated: 2021-06-21

Quicker journeys

On May 28, a China-Europe Railway Express train carrying 2,156 metric tons of concentrated apple juice left southern Xinjiang's Aksu city and headed for Russia via Alataw Pass.

Once, the juice had to be shipped to Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, before it could be transferred to the China-Europe Railway Express, and it took 23 days to reach its destination, said Li Judong, manager of Hengtong Juice in Aksu, a key apple cultivation area.

"As Xinjiang's railway system improves, the freight train service has become more and more flexible. By departing from Aksu directly, the journey time to Russia has been cut in half, which has made the company's business more competitive. Xinjiang is no longer 'somewhere far away', but a transportation hub connecting China with countries in Central Asia and Europe. I am pleased to see that many of my international business partners realize that, too," Li said.

The BRI has also brought many new opportunities for land ports that have been key to traders since the ancient Silk Road. Modern cities have risen up at ports such as Alataw Pass and Horgos to better support the initiative's development.

In 1988, when Yu Chengzhong first arrived in Horgos, a land port between China and Kazakhstan in Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture, he never imagined that a new city with modern buildings would rise up in the Gobi Desert thanks to the BRI.

In Mongolian, Horgos means "a place where caravans pass", as it was a trading post along the northern route of the ancient Silk Road. In the Kazak language, Horgos is "a place where wealth can be accumulated". That resonates with its recent development as it becomes a regional hub for trade and commerce.

"Apart from a few one-story buildings and small shops, there was nothing but the Gobi Desert in Horgos, which was only a land port where no one wanted to stay permanently because of the harsh environment," Yu recalled.

"Horgos is no longer just a land port. Now, many people have settled down and become residents of Horgos city."

The entrepreneur has witnessed the rapid development of Horgos, especially since the State Council, China's Cabinet, decided to transform it from a simple land port into a city to better accommodate its development under the BRI and benefit Xinjiang's economic development.

Yu who started out by selling fruit on the streets of Horgos, is known as the local "fruit king". His company, Jinyi International Trade, exports fruit to Russia and countries in Central Asia. He has also established several fruit production bases around China to meet the demand of the international market.

He recalled that when he started the company, it took at least two days for customs to clear goods heading to Kazakhstan on trucks.

"Now, it only takes two hours, thanks to the improved customs clearance and simplified procedures brought by the initiative. Time means money in the fruit business," he said.

To make life more convenient, Xinjiang has stepped up efforts to cut customs clearance times at international rail ports, including Horgos. The average time for clearing outbound goods has been cut to less than one hour, while it takes less than a day to clear inbound goods.

The Horgos government said it will continue to improve infrastructures such as road and telecommunications that are important for businesses, because its goal is to encourage more large businesses to settle in the city.

< 1 2 3 >