A freight train of the Zhengzhou-Europe Express Railway travels across the Mongolian grassland. [Photo/China Daily]
Landlocked province has taken advantage of its central location to become a major player in foreign trade via efficient transportation links
Editor's Note:As the People's Republic of China prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary on Oct 1, China Daily is featuring a series of stories on the role regions have played in the country's development and where they are today.
A freight train bound for Germany departed from Zhengzhou, Henan province, on Thursday, marking the sixth anniversary of the transcontinental express railway service.
Via the Zhengzhou-Europe Express Railway, goods can reach 130 cities in 30 countries in Europe and Asia, said Zheng Guoqiang, assistant manager of Zhengzhou International Hub Development and Construction, which handles the railway services.
But the international reach of the landlocked province isn't restricted to the transcontinental express railway. Air services, easy connections to major shipping ports and borderless online trade have ensured the inland province is moving forward with partner countries of the Belt and Road Initiative, the provincial reform and development commission said.
In the first five months of this year, Henan has seen its foreign trade volume with these countries reach 39.7 billion yuan ($5.8 billion), an increase of 6.6 percent year-on-year, data from the commission showed.
Guided by instructions from President Xi Jinping in 2014, the province has become a logistics hub. Despite its apparent disadvantage of being landlocked, the Zhengzhou railway bureau of China Railway Group said Henan has good connections with the eastern, western and southern regions of China, as well as domestic and foreign markets.
"We have expanded the network of the express railway and improved the technologies to carry more types of goods, such as fruit and ice cream, to deliver via the network," Zheng said, adding that advanced cold-chain transportation had been extended to 10,000 kilometers.
"It usually takes 15 days via the express railways to reach the major European markets," said Shi Fenghua, deputy manager of the Zhengzhou station of CRIntermodal, a container service provider. "It's a month shorter than by ship and the cost is 80 percent less than via the airlines, making the express railway service quite popular in China."
A foreign businessman chooses a crab at a seafood market in Zhengzhou, Henan province. [Photo/China Daily]
Companies from South Korea and Japan have also used Henan's rail services to deliver their goods, Shi said.
The express railway has also benefitted consumers both domestically and in European and Asian markets, who can all enjoy high-quality imported goods at reasonable prices, said Chen Guohui, Party chief of Putian railway station, a major facility in the railway network. He added the rail service had helped promote Zhengzhou to the world.
Henan has taken advantage of its central location to connect with the rest of the country, and has been a strong force in facilitating trade with foreign markets, especially in the countries along the BRI route, experts said.
Based on its "excellent" geographic location, the integrated growth of railway, airline and shipping networks along with online trade has fueled the opening-up of the inland province, said Zheng Zuxuan, deputy dean of the School of Economics at Henan University.
"The force from these smooth connections can promote the economy of the province as well as the whole country," he said.
Wang Haijie, deputy dean of the Business School at Zhengzhou University, added that the vast population of more than 100 million in Henan has also created a promising domestic market which could drive foreign trade and local industry for a long time.