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Landlocked Central Asian countries seek opportunities at BRI logistics base

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-09-25 14:16

Photo shows the mark of the ground zero of the eastern terminal of the New Eurasian Land Bridge at the China-Kazakhstan International Logistics Base in Lianyungang city, East China's Jiangsu province. [Photo courtesy of the Lianyungang Port]

NANJING - Fully loaded with packages of wheat from Kazakhstan, a roaring China-Europe freight train enters an international logistics base in Lianyungang, a coastal city in East China's Jiangsu province.

Kazakhstan is one of the world's top wheat producers, and has traditionally exported some of its wheat via sea routes. As a landlocked country, it found this option both time-consuming and expensive. However, the establishment of the China-Kazakhstan (Lianyungang) logistics cooperation base has provided it with a more convenient and economical choice.

In 2013, China proposed the idea of building an "economic belt along the Silk Road" in Kazakhstan, which, combined with the proposal of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The logistic cooperation base, launched in 2014, is the first entity project under the BRI. Acting as a dry port in the Horgos-Eastern Gate special economic zone and the Western China-Western Europe international transport corridor, it has become an important platform for products from Central Asian countries to reach seaports.

In February 2017, the first batch of wheat produced in Kazakhstan stopped over in Lianyungang and then were sent to Southeast Asia, marking the official implementation of Lianyungang as the only departure port for Kazakhstan's grain transit in China, said Zuo Xuemei, general manager of the Lianyungang China-Kazakhstan International Logistics Co Ltd in an interview with Xinhua.

China-Europe freight trains slash the transit time of Kazakh wheat, and they are also cost-effective, said Zuo, adding that over 50,000 tons of wheat from Kazakhstan have been transported from the base so far.

The base has also provided some Kazakhs with job opportunities. Zharkyn Magzhan, an international graduate student from a Chinese university, became a translator there last year, and he is fond of his new life.

"I have never seen such a big port before, and I have never been close to the sea for such a long time," said Magzhan. At the beginning of this year, he went back to Kazakhstan and saw many Chinese-brand vehicles and newly-added infrastructure with Chinese companies involved in the construction.

"My elder brother also works in a Chinese enterprise in our hometown. The BRI not only injects impetus into the cooperation between Central Asian countries and China, but brings more opportunities for young people to work overseas and pursue a better career," said Magzhan.

"I believe that projects like China-Kazakhstan (Lianyungang) logistics cooperation base will mushroom in the future and the prospects for cooperation between China and Central Asian countries are rosy," he said.

In the past 10 years, more and more clients from Central Asian countries have been seeking opportunities in Lianyungang, said Xiao Faliang, multimodal transport division general manager of Sinotrans Landbridge Transportation Co Ltd, a company engaged in international freight transport.

"It used to take over 20 days for goods to travel from Lianyungang to Alma Ata, the largest city in Kazakhstan, but now it takes only a week at the soonest," said Xiao, attributing the shorter time to the improved operating efficiency of China-Europe freight trains, which is also an outcome of the BRI.

Because of the new choice provided by the China-Kazakhstan (Lianyungang) logistics cooperation base, Barbican Logistics LLC in Uzbekistan has been the partner of the company Xiao works with for many years.

"The logistics cooperation base offers a platform for Uzbekistan, a landlocked Central Asian country, to trade with more countries and regions, as goods can now be transported to Lianyungang first, and then from Lianyungang to Southeast Asian countries," said Mirkhamidov Mirkomil, general director of Barbican Logistics LLC.

The China-Kazakhstan (Lianyungang) logistics cooperation base has not only promoted mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Kazakhstan, but provided new opportunities to other inland Belt and Road countries, said Zhang Wei, an expert with the China Academy of Railway Sciences Corporation Limited.

The base can also promote the economic opening up of Lianyungang, developing it into a highland of the high-quality development of China-Europe freight trains, she said.

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