An out­sider brings rail­way suc­cess to Xin­jiang

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CUI JIA cui­jia@chi­

In 2014, when Jia Xiaobo first told of­fi­cials in Urumqi his idea of mak­ing the city a rail­way hub that would col­lect cargo from around China and ship it by train to Europe, they turned him down. Of­fi­cials didn’t be­lieve the city — the cap­i­tal of the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion — was up to such an am­bi­tious con­cept.

Jia re­lo­cated from Beijing to Urumqi in 2011 as one of the of­fi­cials sent from 19 prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties — along with oth­ers from var­i­ous min­istries — by the cen­tral govern­ment to help the re­gion de­velop. They were ex­pected to take on roles in lo­cal gov­ern­ments and ad­vise lo­cal of­fi­cials.

Since the cen­tral govern­ment first sent the of­fi­cials to Xin­jiang in 1997, more than 19,000 peo­ple have taken up the sup­port­ing as­sign­ments in the re­gion. In 2011, a new round of as­sis­tance was launched, and 15,000 of­fi­cials have con­trib­uted to the devel­op­ment of the vast western area since then.

Jia’s job also changed. He was an of­fi­cial of the Gen­eral Administration of Cus­toms and be­came deputy di­rec­tor of the Xin­jiang re­gional port management of­fice.

“It is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring new ideas to Xin­jiang and make the im­pos­si­ble hap­pen,” the 44-year-old said. “I am also here to help lo­cal of­fi­cials bet­ter un­der­stand na­tional poli­cies and put them to good use in Xin­jiang’s devel­op­ment.”

In China, rules re­quire a freight train head­ing to Europe to have 43 rail cars be­fore it can leave a Chi­nese city. In the past, that cre­ated un­cer­tain­ties in de­par­ture times be­cause it takes a long time for a city to gather enough cargo to fill all the cars.

Since all freight trains from China to Cen­tral Asia and Europe must exit from Xin­jiang — which has 19 land ports along its bor­der with Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Pak­istan — Jia pro­posed mak­ing Urumqi a rail cargo hub so that train ser­vices could be reg­u­lar­ized.

Af­ter de­tailed re­search, he con­cluded that it would be much eas­ier and quicker to reach the re­quired num­ber of rail cars at a sin­gle cen­ter be­cause cargo would come from all over China.

He even­tu­ally con­vinced lo­cal of­fi­cials and, af­ter re­peated at­tempts, re­ceived pol­icy sup­port from the Gen­eral Administration of Cus­toms. His pro­posal was fi­nally given a green light by the Urumqi govern­ment.

In Au­gust, the tem­po­rary Urumqi rail­way port and gath­er­ing cen­ter was up and run­ning. The China-Europe freight train depart­ing from Urumqi has be­come a pop­u­lar choice for in­ter­na­tional busi­nesses — a point of pride for Jia.

When his re­quired ser­vice time of three years in Xin­jiang was up in 2014, Jia de­cided to stay an­other three so he could fol­low through on projects he be­lieves are cru­cial to the re­gion’s devel­op­ment.

Jia is due back in Beijing soon, and he has been busy com­plet­ing doc­u­ments to re­new the Urumqi rail­way port’s li­cense, which ex­pires in Au­gust.

“There are still many mis­un­der­stand­ings about the re­gion and its peo­ple,” Jia said. “I will con­tinue telling peo­ple what Xin­jiang is re­ally like, es­pe­cially how big it is and what great po­ten­tial it has.”

from out­side Xin­jiang have con­trib­uted to the devel­op­ment of the au­tonomous re­gion since a new round of as­sis­tance to the re­gion was launched in 2011.

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