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Frontier Hotel in Urumqi -- Not Quite

Frontier Hotel sits on Yan'an Rd in Urumqi, the capital city of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. According to Ma Jingfeng, director of the Frontier Hotel Management Committee, Frontier is usually the first, and favorite, stop on the typical Xinjiang tour itinerary for many central Asian businessmen.

Technically called a "Class B land port", Frontier occupies an area of 40,000 square meters containing nearly 1,000 booths and 300 warehouses.

"Ninety-five percent of the booth owners are from eastern China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and northeast China's Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces. They sell goods only to foreign clients usually from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan."

As a service to its foreign customers, Frontier also provides board and lodging, hence the name, warehousing services, customs clearance and shipping assistance.

According to Ma, many government branches, bureaus and private banks have set up offices in Frontier. This facilitates the smooth trade of goods.

Frontier was a military hotel before it was turned into a market in the early 1990s.

It's extremely popular with businessmen from former Soviet Union. But authorities would like to attract more foreign trade. According to Ma, 25 million yuan (US$3.08 million) has been invested in the project over the last few years. The plan is to develop enhanced services including an electronic and automated logistics center and more comfortable lodging for business people.

In 2004, Frontier did about US$650 million worth of exports business, accounting for 94 percent of total trade volume of the five Class B ports in Urumqi, Ma said.

Class A ports, designated by the central government, are typically border cities where foreign transport vehicles can deliver goods directly. Class B ports all located within 200 to 500 km of the larger cities, are designated by provincial or regional governments. 

Xinjiang currently has 16 Class A and 11 Class B ports. Its advantages are that it borders eight countries including Russia and Kazakhstan, and it has a similar language, religion and set of social customs to its neighboring countries.

Border trade in Xinjiang hit US$3.04 billion in 2004.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Guo Xiaohong, July 22, 2005)

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