close
close

China and Central Asia are reaping remarkable benefits from win-win cooperation with Xinhua

This aerial photo, taken on September 7, 2023, shows a view of Xi’an International Port in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. (Xinhua/Shao Rui)

XI’AN, May 21 (Xinhua) — Xiao Qiqing, a university student in Xi’an, the capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi province, is full of excitement for her graduation trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan, next month.

“I searched online and discovered that Almaty has a unique natural landscape and a fascinating artistic atmosphere. Thanks to the visa waiver and direct flight, I can just pack and go,” she said.

About 217,000 Chinese tourists visited Kazakhstan in 2023, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to China Shakhrat Nuryshev said last month. The ambassador added that as this year marks Kazakhstan’s tourism year in China, more than 35 relevant activities will be held in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an.

The increasing number of cross-border travel is just one facet of deepening ties between China and Central Asia. A year ago, the first China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an created a new platform for good neighborly relations and win-win cooperation between China and five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

By tapping into the potential of transport and infrastructure and creating new growth drivers such as agriculture, the six countries have delivered tangible benefits to the region’s people and local economies over the past year.

This photo, taken on May 16, 2023, shows a view of the clock tower in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi province. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)

EFFICIENT CONNECTIVITY NETWORK

Alashankou Port in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region begins its busy days at dawn. As a major gateway to the New Eurasian Land Bridge, it serves both as a vital gateway to Central Asia and Europe and a crucial hub for international trade and cooperation.

The port has streamlined its services since last year, reducing the reloading time for incoming trains to less than an hour. In the first four months of this year, 2,489 freight trains between China and Europe (Central Asia) passed through Alashankou Port, a year-on-year increase of 17.1 percent.

Improving connectivity with Central Asia is one of the commitments made by China at the summit. Since then, the country has been striving to modernize border ports and increase the volume of cross-border freight transport.

Xinjiang has opened five “green roads” for streamlined customs clearance of agricultural and co-products through cooperation with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

According to Urumqi Customs, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan remained Xinjiang’s top trading partners in the first quarter of 2024, with import and export growth of 58.8 percent and 1.9 percent respectively, accounting for 40.5 percent and 22 percent of total foreign trade of Xinjiang.

China-Kazakhstan (Xi’an) Trade logistics in Xi’an, the eastern starting point of the ancient Silk Road, is also an important outcome of the summit.

Although located inland, Xi’an is one of the gathering centers of the China-Europe Railway Express. In the first quarter of this year, 1,047 freight trains were launched between China and Europe, with an average of one train departing or arriving at Xi’an International Port Station every 100 minutes.

The cargo terminal, jointly launched by KTZ Express, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), and Xi’an Free Trade Port Construction and Operation, facilitates an efficient “hub-to-hub” logistics corridor.

According to KTZ, rail freight transport between China and Kazakhstan will increase by 22 percent annually to 28 million tons in 2023.

“The purpose of the terminal in Xi’an is to become a transfer hub and warehouse, so that goods can be transferred more efficiently between China, Kazakhstan, Central Asia and even Europe and other places,” said Sadvakkas Seitzhanov, general manager of the Chinese branch of KTZ Express, notes that the terminal has reduced the transit time from Xi’an to Tashkent in Uzbekistan from 13 days to 9 days.

“We adjust the shipping schedule according to real-time market demand, share train service information and provide one-stop service to our customers. The booming bilateral trade in recent years has given us the confidence to expand our business in China .” he added.

This photo taken on March 12, 2024, shows a view of the China-Kazakhstan (Xi’an) Trade Logistics, a cargo terminal at Xi’an International Port Station, in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province . (Xinhua/Zhao Yingbo)

MUTUAL BENEFITS COOPERATION

With summer approaching, many Xi’an residents can now enjoy a fresh scoop of ice cream made in Kazakhstan.

A customer at a supermarket of Xi’an Aiju Grain and Oil Industrial Group expressed her joy after tasting the creamy and flavorful Kazakh vanilla ice cream with a chocolate topping.

According to Liu Dongmeng, deputy general manager of Xi’an Aiju Grain and Oil Industrial Group, more than 40 percent of the supermarket’s products were imported from Central Asian countries, including beer, biscuits and honey, which are very popular among Chinese customers .

Relying on the steady demand in the Chinese market, the company has started promoting order-based farming in Kazakhstan since 2016 by offering guaranteed purchase prices to local farmers. To date, the planting area covers 1.5 million mu (about 100,000 hectares), with an additional investment of 150 million yuan (about US$20.78 million) in 2023 for grain processing.

Two-way trade between China and the five Central Asian countries has soared to new heights, with trade volume rising 17.9 percent in the first four months of this year, according to official data.

Booming foreign trade is also reported in other sectors, such as truck manufacturing. The Shaanxi Automobile Holding Group Co., Ltd. For example, (SHACMAN) exported more than 7,500 heavy trucks to Central Asian countries in 2023, an increase of 110 percent year-on-year.

By building factories and gas stations in these countries, SHACMAN has offered training to local staff and gained a foothold in the Central Asian market.

The company has adapted the design and performance of its trucks to the specific needs of users. For example, trucks exported to Central Asian countries are equipped with independent warm air systems and thermally insulated cabins to withstand cold conditions.

“We also tailor the products to the needs of each country. Tajikistan needs more dumpers for its mining and infrastructure projects, while long-distance haulers are popular in Kazakhstan for the Trans-Caspian International Transport Corridor,” said Hui Xiang, brand manager of Shaanxi Heavy Duty Automobile Import & Export Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of SHACMAN.