As the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has promoted the construction of its inland Ports, turning the northwestern border into a gateway to the Economic Belt, transforming the channel economy into a regional economy, and releasing new growth drivers.

The dramatic transformation of the land Port of Horgos, Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture, which has grown out of the Gobi Desert in only five years, is one of the great success stories of the Belt & Road Initiative.

Yu Chengzhong, President of Horgos Jinyi International Trade Co., Ltd., which exports fruit and vegetables from China to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia, has reaped the rewards of the New Silk Road and is praised as the “fruit king”.

In his company, workers were seen busy loading dozens of trucks with oranges, apples and other fruits in the 80,000 square-meter customs warehouse of his company.

Nearly 1,000 tonnes of fruits are sent to the countries every day.

“Now the customs clearance is very fast. Time and speed are important to keep fruits fresh. I can get a good price if they are still fresh at the destinations,” said Yu Chengzhong.

The Western Europe-Western China (WE-WC) Highway fully opened to traffic in 2018, reducing travel time between Horgos and Alma Ata, the largest city in Kazakhstan by one third.

Since the Horgos Customs launched its green channel for agricultural produce, customs clearance time is shortened from two hours to half an hour.

benefits brought by the Belt & Road Initiative

“To further develop in Horgos in the future, we will build our own agricultural product bases, planting bases and be involved in science and technology demonstration parks. We should uphold the idea of innovation,” said Yu.

From January to November 2019, the Horgos Pass handled 31.45 million tonnes of imports and exports with trade value reaching 108.9 billion yuan (about 15.6 billion U.S. dollars).

Meanwhile, a total of 35 key projects with a total investment of over 30 billion yuan (about 4.31 billion U.S. dollars) are afoot in the China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center.

With visa-free access for up to 30 days and special tax and customs benefits, the centre is packed with shoppers looking for discount deals on duty-free goods from China, the Eurasian Economic Union countries and even those from West Europe.

It has been five years since Bawujiang, a Kazak citizen, came to trade in the centre. As his business got better, he expanded his store from 30 square meters to the current 300 square meters and bought a house and settled in Horgos in 2019.

“The duty-free goods attract a large number of tourists to shop here. With the Belt & Road Initiative, I believe our business will get better and better,” said Bawujiang, a vendor in the centre.

With 18 ports, Xinjiang has continued to promote the construction of cross-border e-commerce pilot zones, economic development zones, and comprehensive bonded areas.

As the biggest inland port in northwestern China, Alashankou has seen its cargo rail service grow steadily since the first international freight train via the port was launched in 2011.

Over 70 percent of China-Europe freight trains pass the port, and 20 special highway lines lead directly to the Alashankou comprehensive bonded zone.

In the bonded zone, a production line with a daily output of 50 tonnes was processing flour from Kazakhstan into fine dried noodles, which will be transported to cities across China.

“Another 52 companies have settled in the comprehensive bonded zone, making the number of firms in the zone to 553. The Port has transformed from channel economy into the port economy,” said Pi Lyuping, an official of the bonded zone.

Xinjiang has established economic and trade relations with 170 Countries and Regions.

From January to November 2019, the total value of foreign trade in the autonomous region reached 149.17 billion yuan (about 21.42 billion U.S. dollars), a year-on-year increase of 31.1 percent.