SCO, Belt and Road trade on the right track in Qingdao
From dawn to midnight every day, the intermodal transportation hub at the China-Shanghai Cooperation Organization Local Economic and Trade Cooperation Demonstration Area in Qingdao, Shandong province, is busy handling containers, as international freight trains arrive and leave one after another around the clock.
The area's newest route, which was launched on Wednesday, is the China-Russia express route between Qingdao and Vladivostok.
The consignment of 346 twenty-foot equivalent units containing tires, daily necessities, machine accessories and cosmetics worth around $13 million, was expected to arrive in Russia's largest port on the Pacific after a four-day journey, from where it will be sent onward to other cities in Russia and beyond by rail.
Following a proposal made by President Xi Jinping to the 18th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the SCO on June 10, 2018, the demonstration area has been working to enhance its role as a regional logistics hub serving the SCO and countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Since its first China-Europe freight train route was launched in 2018, the demonstration area has handled nearly 2,000 international freight trains, including 523 China-Europe freight trains in the first eight months of this year, an increase of 46.1 percent over the same period last year.
According to Zhang Xinzhu, the demonstration area's Party chief, there are now 27 regular domestic and international freight train routes linking 22 SCO member states and Belt and Road countries, departing from the zone.
"The demonstration area has entered into partnerships with railroad operators in Russia and Kazakhstan and built a digital platform to optimize customer service. In addition, a bonded airport zone, a newly founded shipping company and a highway transportation network permit it to act as an international logistics hub," said Zhang.
Apart from logistics, the demonstration area is also focused on attracting and developing industries. More than 70 projects, with a total investment of 200 billion yuan ($28.8 billion), have so far been attracted to the area, 21 of them this year, which are worth a combined 62.5 billion yuan.
Some 1,800 foreign trade companies are also present in the demonstration area, representing businesses from machinery, electronics and farm produce to textiles. There are also four cross-border e-commerce operators.
During this year's Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, an online shopping festival was held in the demonstration area to promote specialties from SCO member states. The ambassadors of Pakistan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Russia were invited to livestreaming shows to introduce their nations' products to Chinese consumers. More than 100 products were introduced via 15 livestreaming shows that attracted 1.2 million views and led to sales of nearly 100 million yuan ($14.4 million).
It is estimated that cross-border e-commerce trade worth 1.15 billion yuan was realized at the demonstration area during the first seven months of this year, with total import and export volume expected to reach 21 billion yuan, up 38.3 percent year-on-year. Trade volume with SCO countries alone is expected to account for 4.3 billion yuan, up 86.2 percent year-on-year.
"The demonstration area's local companies are also investing overseas, including in a $4.5-billion oil refinery project at Gwadar Port in Pakistan. The factory will have a refinery capacity of 8 million metric tons of oil per year once it's completed and will create 3,000 jobs directly and 200,000 indirectly," said Zhang.
The area's administration works with leading companies and platform operators, and leverages social capital to create an integrated industrial chain. Targeting economic and trade cooperation with SCO member states, it has planned 20 industrial clusters, Zhang added.