A crane loads containers at Erenhot Port in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region on April 11, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
After a China-Europe cargo train left east China's Jinhua for Baku in Azerbaijan on Thursday, an inbound train carrying 50 containers of polyethylene arrived in the coastal city of Xiamen the next day.
With the new Jinhua-Baku route, the number of China-Europe (Central Asia) freight train routes starting in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, has increased to 12. The train from Russia's Tobolsk was the first return train fully loaded with bonded cargo to Xiamen, Fujian province.
As the coronavirus pandemic severely hits international transport, the China-Europe freight trains play a pivotal role in land transport among countries, as shown by the rising number of trains, opening of new routes, and the volume of goods.
The China-Europe freight trains, first launched in 2011 in the southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, are running more frequently than ever this year ensuring trade and transport of epidemic prevention materials in both directions. They have been an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013.
By the end of July, the China-Europe cargo train service had delivered 39,000 tonnes of goods for epidemic prevention, providing strong support to international COVID-19 control efforts, data from the China State Railway Group Co Ltd showed.
The number of China-Europe freight trains hit a record high of 1,247 in August, up 62 percent year on year, transporting 113,000 TEUs of goods, an increase of 66 percent.
Outbound trains carry goods like daily necessities, equipment, medical supplies and vehicles while inbound trains transport milk powder, wine and automobile parts among other products.
By Aug 20, Xi'an, a major city on the Silk Road Economic Belt, had launched 2,305 freight trains this year, transporting a total of 1.79 million tonnes of goods, 1.9 times and 1.8 times the number and volume respectively of the same period last year.
Xi'an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi province, has 15 international trunk freight train lines, covering 45 countries and regions in central Asia, western Asia and Europe.
During the epidemic, the China-Europe freight train service showed how it could promote win-win situation that would be mutually beneficial. It also highlighted the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday.
The China-Europe freight train has not only delivered to European countries anti-epidemic materials and daily necessities that are in short supply, but also shipped a large number of quality foreign products to China.
"This is conducive to the resumption of production and the rapid economic restart of countries along the Belt and Road, providing a strong impetus to the stability of global industrial and supply chains, and bringing new opportunities for the recovery and development of the global economy," Zhao said.
A number of Chinese provinces and regions have reported growth in foreign trade with Belt and Road countries.
The China-Europe trains have accelerated the city's opening up, said Li Mingyuan, mayor of Xi'an. In the first half of this year, Xi'an's foreign trade grew 2.9 percent to reach 166.15 billion yuan (about $24.3 billion).
In the first seven months, central China's Henan province saw its trade with Belt and Road countries increase by 28.8 percent year on year to reach 76 billion yuan. Trade between the eastern province of Shandong and countries along the Belt and Road hit 346.3 billion yuan, up 5.5 percent year on year, accounting for 30.4 percent of the province's total foreign trade.
"Good connectivity is a hugely important factor facilitating growth in international trade. We believe that much of China's experience in terms of improving connectivity can be replicated elsewhere, to the benefit of trade, companies and local economies," said Jens Eskelund, vice chairman of European Chamber of Commerce in China and managing director of Maersk China Limited.
According to China's Ministry of Commerce, from January to July, the non-financial direct investment of Chinese companies in countries along the Belt and Road reached $10.27 billion, up 28.9 percent year on year.