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China-Europe freight rail service traverses continents, history

By LUO WANGSHU in Xi'an, and Urumqi and Horgos, Xinjiang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-06 07:37

Customers shop at a store that sells international products in Horgos, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in May. GUAN YONGJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Traveling pioneering path laid by Silk Road, 'steel caravan' records major milestone

The China-Europe freight rail service achieved a remarkable milestone on May 25 by completing its 90,000th journey — an outstanding achievement that underscores the success of the Belt and Road Initiative and its deep roots in history.

The service, which facilitates the movement of goods between China and European nations, has also bolstered infrastructure connectivity, streamlined cargo transportation, and enriched trade and communication channels.

Since it began in 2011, the service has transported more than 8.7 million containers carrying goods valued in excess of $380 billion, according to the China State Railway Group, the operator of the service.

The China-Europe freight train, often referred to as a "steel camel caravan", has made these remarkable achievements in just 13 years.

Ironically, the first camel caravan to travel from China to Europe — and reportedly led by the Chinese imperial envoy Zhang Qian — took 13 years to make that singular, historic trip.

Over 2,000 years ago, Zhang Qian departed on his expedition from Chang'an, now Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi province. He traveled thousands of kilometers westward, traversing what is today the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and various nations in Central Asia. That expedition laid the foundation for the Silk Road, heralding the dawn of links between the East and West.

Zhang's first expedition earned him widespread acclaim as a national hero and the trailblazer of the Silk Road.

Numerous merchants, travelers, and their camel caravans subsequently followed in his footsteps, facilitating trade and cultural exchanges between China and Europe and playing a pivotal role in advancing human civilization.

Inspired by Zhang Qian's historic journey and the monumental success of the Silk Road, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 — a modern iteration of the Silk Road aimed at fostering enhanced communication between the East and West. Over the past 11 years, this initiative has garnered widespread acceptance and proven its importance and efficiency on a global scale.

One of the prominent achievements underscoring the success of this initiative has been the China-Europe freight train service.

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