Chengdu's rail link to Europe a key component of BRI
23 Aug 2023


Freight train trips enhance Belt and Road Initiative ties


A freight train loaded with liquid crystal display products, connectors, auto parts and other merchandise departed Chengdu for Duisburg Port in Germany on Aug 7, just as the 31st FISU Summer World University Games were wrapped up in the capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province.


In much the same way the games helped foster closer ties between Chengdu and the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, the China-Europe freight train has further advanced the relationship while playing an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative.


Duisburg, in the Rhine-Ruhr region, is the largest inland port in Germany and a crucial European trade hub. Chengdu opened the freight train service in 2018, and in October of that year, a cargo of wine and lubrication oil departed from Duisburg and passed through Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries before arriving in Chengdu via the Alashankou Port in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.


Completion of the first freight run between the two regions made Duisburg the 20th overseas station serviced by the Chengdu train.


On July 20, Chengdu officially launched the China-Europe freight train service to Duisburg, departing from the Chengdu International Railway Port in the city's Qingbaijiang district.


According to local officials, the Chengdu-Duisburg China-Europe freight train has an innovative operation pattern that reflects the China-Europe (Chengdu-Chongqing) freight train domestically and is managed by the Mala control center in Poland and the Germany branch of Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe International Railway overseas.


Expanding new channels


In line with the decadelong development of the BRI, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the first China-Europe freight train from the Chengdu International Railway Port.


The first China-Europe freight train from Chengdu to Lodz, Poland, was launched in April 2013, and trains from Chengdu have since become a major international transportation link between Asia and Europe. Journey times have been reduced from 22 days to 10 days, while the value and quantity of goods has dramatically increased.


Local officials said the China-Europe freight trains have transported Chinese products such as electronics, vehicles and machinery to Europe while importing the likes of French wine, Russian wood, Polish beef and Italian furniture, reshaping the foreign trade pattern of Chengdu and western China.


With the continuous opening-up of western China, the freight trains departing from Chengdu help expand new channels for foreign trade. In April, a train carrying green beans from Uzbekistan arrived at the Chengdu Railway Station via Horgos Port, marking the first time that Chengdu International Railway Port imported green beans from Uzbekistan through the Central Asian railway. This opened the import channel for grain from Central Asia and achieved a breakthrough in the import of foodstuffs.


"It took only 10 days to transport the goods from Samarkand to Chengdu, which is quite efficient and highly secure," said Wang Kaibin, manager of an international trade company in Alashankou in Xinjiang, which imported the beans.


In May, three containers of chicken byproducts arrived in Chengdu via the China-Europe freight train. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chengdu International Railway Port was the first in the country to reopen its imported meat cold-chain business, stimulating consumption of imported cold-chain food.


Since the start of this year, the railway port has promoted import and export cold-chain business. By connecting with imported meat enterprises, streamlining and improving business processes and coordinating solutions to bottlenecks, it has made use of the China-Europe freight train to achieve a comprehensive increase in the imported meat cold-chain business. So far, the port has launched dedicated trains for imported meat from Russia and export trains for frozen grilled eels from Sichuan.


The railway port has also opened more southbound train routes to keep abreast of increased cross-border logistics and international transit demands between Sichuan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — ASEAN — countries.


In 2022, Chengdu launched the China-Vietnam train service and the China-Laos train service. In June, the China-Myanmar New Channel (Mandalay-Chengdu) intermodal train service commenced operations, connecting Chengdu with Southeast Asia through the Yunnan Tengchong Houqiao Port.


So far, Chengdu's international train services have reached 100 overseas cities and 30 domestic destinations, establishing an international network and land-sea freight distribution system with Chengdu at its core. These services extend west to Europe, north to Mongolia and Russia, east to Japan and South Korea, and south to ASEAN countries.


Official data show that from January to June, the China-Europe (Chengdu-Chongqing) freight train operated 2,732 services, a year-on-year increase of 29.6 percent that ranked first in the country. The transported goods topped 220,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, up 24 percent year-on-year.


Enriching consumption


With the improvement of living standards and the changing consumer mindset, consumption of imported goods has become an everyday demand. In Chengdu, high-quality overseas products imported via international freight trains are particularly favored by local residents.


On July 14, an exhibition and sales event featuring imported goods at the Chengdu-Eurasia National (Commodity) Pavilion opened in the Chengdu Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone, showcasing and selling distinctive goods and products transported by Chengdu's international freight trains.


"We bought some skin care products and beer. They were cheaper than what we bought before. We even participated in a lucky draw, and we had a full load return," said a local resident surnamed Wang.


In recent years, Chengdu has utilized the China-Europe freight train as a link and built a rapid and open cooperation platform based on Eurasian trade and economic exchanges. It has established a platform for promoting the exhibition and cultural exchange of goods from countries involved in the BRI.


The Chengdu-Eurasia National (Commodity) Pavilion located at Chengdu International Railway Port has become a new consumption landmark. So far, the pavilion has attracted 34 venues featuring commodities from countries and regions including Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania. According to local officials, the pavilion helps drive an annual import trade value of more than 1 billion yuan ($137.18 million).


In addition to exhibitions, the Chengdu commerce bureau organized a matchmaking event for imported goods as part of the city's efforts to promote its exports and international consumption. The event invited overseas importers including the Portugal National Pavilion, Sichuan Yunmao International Supply Chain and Australian pharmacy Chemist Warehouse to cooperate with Chinese e-commerce retailers such as JD and Vipshop and other suppliers to establish a long-term and stable international supply chain.


An official at the commerce bureau said the goal is to transform the advantage of a vast consumer market into an advantage in import trade through communication and cooperation, deepening the link between consumption and trade while expanding import consumption.


Source: China Daily