SCIO briefing on 'The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects'

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Xiao Weiming, director general of the Department of General Affairs at the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative;

Song Lihong, director general of the Comprehensive Department at the Ministry of Commerce

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office of China

April 22, 2019

China Daily:

Dubbed the "caravans of steel camels", the China-Europe Railway Express has been gradually increasing the number of its freight train runs and expanding its coverage and influence. Could you give us an introduction of its development, the main work and future plans?

Xiao Weiming:

Thanks for your attention to the China-Europe Railway Express, which has been growing along with the Belt and Road Initiative. So far, the cumulative total of shipments has reached 14,691. The freight trains have created a link between 62 cities in China and 51 cities in 15 European countries. A total of 68 rail routes have been developed. All Chinese cities can be linked with any European country via three rail channels -- a western route through the Alataw Pass, an eastern route through Manzhouli, and a middle line through Erenhot -- and then on through central Asia, Belarus and Russia. Goods are flowing continuously via these "caravans of steel camels" as you say. The progress made in China-Europe Railway Express project can be described through several features.

First, the transport quality has improved significantly. The ratio of departing trains to returning trains has gone from 2:1 to 3:2 and to 99% now. A balance in two-way communications has been basically achieved. Currently, 88% of the containers are full of goods, an increase of 4 percentage points compared with last year. We have also beefed up security measures along the routes.

Second, the goods transported have gradually become more diversified. The goods items have expanded from IT products like smartphones and computers to clothing, shoes and hats, automobiles and auto parts, grain, grape wine, coffee beans and logs. Car exports form a new growth pillar. It is worth noting that China-Europe Railway postal services have also become regularized.

Third, the railway has significantly spurred the growth of surrounding areas. With the development of the railway, a safe, convenient and efficient "trade passageway" has opened for countries along the route, and most certainly for China's landlocked regions. Multimodal connectivity projects have appeared and have basically achieved rail-inland water and rail-maritime transportation, contributing greatly to regional economic and employment growth. The total cargo value of China-Europe freight trains reached US$ 3.3 billion in 2018, up 106% from the year before.

Fourth, significant progress has been made in institutional construction. An agreement for further cooperation covering China-Europe Railway has been signed by seven countries, including China, Belarus and Russia. A joint working group has been established, with the addition of three national observers, namely the rail administrations of Lithuania, Latvia and Austria. The joint working group has cooperated to improve the capacity in regard to transport organizing, marketing and information-sharing. Domestically, a coordinating board for China-Europe Railway has been established as a self-coordinating mechanism between enterprises. 

Therefore, we are confident that with the further implementation of the BRI, the China-Europe Railway will enhance international cooperation and interaction between industries, win a higher reputation for itself, further address railway traffic congestion, improve the efficiency of customs clearance, and provide better services for people of countries under the BRI. Thank you.

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