Once a Silk Road center, city again a hub of global trade
More than 2,000 years ago, a trade route dubbed the “southern Silk Road” promoted exchanges between Chengdu, where the route originated, with Southeast and South Asian countries. Nowadays, with an extensive transportation network covering air, waterways and land, the Chinese city is once again aligning its growth even more closely with the outside world.
The efforts of Chengdu in Southwest China to transform from a hinterland to a bustling trade area is in line with the nation’s opening-up policy.
On Oct 28, a new freight train carrying furniture departed from Bremerhaven in Germany at night and is due to arrive at the Chengxiang Railway Station in Chengdu’s Qingbaijiang district 16 days later. This was the first time for the Chengdu-Europe Express Railway to test a return train from Bremerhaven, increasing the number of its overseas departure terminals to 22.
The Chengdu-Europe Express Railway launched its first freight train on April 26, 2013 at the city’s Qingbaijiang Container Center. The direct train service, which was renamed in 2016 as the China-EU Express Railway (Chengdu), has reversed the geographic disadvantages of Chengdu as a landlocked city and transformed it into an important channel of logistics and economic exchange along the overland Eurasian Continental Bridge.
The express railway now looks at all four points on the compass for expansion, and forms an “across-the-board” opening-up strategy.
It now terminates in Russia in the north and reaches into the heart of Europe and Central Asian countries in the west. On the east side, it has expanded to Japan, South Korea and the Americas, as well as China’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, with the help of the Chengdu-Europe Plus strategy and China’s longest Yangtze River waterway. On the south side, it has linked with international logistics networks of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
As of Oct 16, Chengdu led the country to dispatch this year’s 1,000th China-EU freight train and has provided a total of 2,497 China-EU rail freight trains in the past five years, accounting for 25 percent of the nation’s total.
Due to its implementation of the Chengdu-Europe Plus strategy, Chengdu has built fast and convenient transportation channels with several coastal and riverside Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
With the deepening of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chengdu-Europe express train has not only changed international logistics and transport patterns, but also has promoted the growth of imports and exports, and accelerated the transfer of production capacity. Materials and goods from both home and abroad are therefore moving to Chengdu more quickly, as well as capital, talented human resources, technology and information.
In September this year, five countries — Italy, France, the Netherlands, Israel and Moldova — located their national commodity pavilions at the Chengdu International Railway Port in Qingbaijiang, part of the China (Sichuan) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
These pavilions will serve as a comprehensive exchange platform that integrates economic, cultural, educational, tourist, exhibition and investment services. In the coming three years, Qingbaijiang plans to develop a cluster of 36 such pavilions.
The Chengdu International Railway Port had introduced 20 major projects by the end of September this year, with total investment of 20.3 billion yuan ($2.93 billion).
As one of the three parts of the China (Sichuan) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the railway port has made 43 reform achievements since its launch in April 2017. This year, for instance, a service office of the Chengdu arbitration commission in the international commerce division opened at the port, helping companies enhance their capacity in preventing and dealing with international disputes, and improving the port’s international economic and trade environment.
As an aviation hub in China’s southwestern areas, Chengdu is constantly improving its international aviation network. The city has opened six direct, regular international passenger flights and two international cargo routes this year.
Chengdu currently operates a total of 111 international air routes, and will start a direct flight to Copenhagen in Denmark on Dec 10.
It is also bustling about the construction of a new mega aviation project — Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, which is scheduled to be ready in 2020, making Chengdu the third city on the Chinese mainland that has two international airports, after Beijing and Shanghai. In 2025, the new airport is expected to handle 40 million passengers and 700,000 metric tons of cargo annually.
In June this year, Chengdu made a plan to build a “Silk Road” in the air and international land-sea transportation channels based on the city’s airports and railway ports.
According to the plan, Chengdu’s advanced global air network will consist of business routes covering 48 core aviation hubs and economic centers around the world, as well as all-cargo routes directly linking to 14 key logistics cities such as Frankfurt, Chicago, Cincinnati and Amsterdam, and an additional 30 highquality routes serving cultural and tourist exchanges.
It will also accelerate the pace in building seven international railways and five sea-rail intermodal transportation channels, in a bid to make Chengdu the hub of the New Eurasian Land Bridge that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Passengers show their air tickets at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport in late September, when the airport launches its first direct flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.