How many Chinese have passports in China

The citizens of Chengdu, located in southwest China, known as a major habitat of the giant panda, can enjoy the sight of products from nearly 40 countries during the spring festival holidays.

In the northeast of the city of Chengdu, the Chengdu International Railway Port has set up several pavilions to showcase and sell international products from overseas. These included French wines, German beers and Italian coffee.

Most of the goods were imported into China by China-Europe freight trains. The project to connect by rail was initiated by China to promote trade with European countries. The Chinese New Year shopping tradition has drawn many Chengdu residents to flock to the pavilions next to the freight yard in search of variety and special offers.

As the number of global flights plummeted amid pandemic restrictions and containers piled up in the United States and Europe, freight trains continued to travel between China and Europe.

In 2020, a new record was set with 12,406 trips by China-Europe freight trains, more than 50 percent more than in 2019. In January 2021, the number of trips reached 1,165, an increase of 66 percent compared to the previous year.

According to reports from the European Union (EU) statistical office Eurostat, China took the place of the United States as the EU's largest trading partner last year. The bilateral trade volume totaled 586 billion euros.

China launched support measures early in 2020 to support stable and flexible overland transportation services, giving cross-border e-commerce a boost. The nationwide trade value of cross-border e-commerce in China increased 31.1 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.

"We have shifted our business focus to rail freight because it is 70 percent cheaper than air transport and twice as fast as sea transport," said Zhang Liping, deputy general manager of a Chengdu-based trading company.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Zhang's cross-border e-commerce business grew more than 20 percent last year, and he plans to double sales to more than 500 million yuan (about $ 77.7 million) this year ).

Most of Zhang's imports go through the Alataw Pass, a major train station in northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In the border region with Kazakhstan, it is the busiest freight yard in China in terms of the number of China-Europe freight trains crossing the border.

The freight yard started cross-border e-commerce on January 21, 2020, using the China-Europe freight trains to deliver products made in China to online buyers abroad.

Within just one year, more than 40 million packages of products that were manufactured in China's manufacturing strongholds such as Dongguan and Kunshan and shipped to European consumers have passed the Alataw Pass.

"Around 14 freight trains now pass through the station every day, delivering an average of 110,000 consignments per day," explained Guo San, head of the freight station's operations and management office. The freight trains, specially adapted for cross-border e-commerce, went into operation for the first time in November last year during China's online shopping event.

Among the bestsellers in cross-border e-commerce are goods such as toys, clothing and shoes, said Sun Shiyu, deputy managing director of Alashankou Comprehensive Bonded Zone Golden Harbor Development Co., Ltd., the operator of the service platform for cross-border e-commerce Freight yard. The most enthusiastic online shoppers are from France, Germany and the UK, Sun added.

From the Alataw-Pass train station, it takes around two weeks for the consignments of cross-border e-commerce to arrive in Europe. In order to compensate for the speed disadvantage of freight trains compared to airplanes, all parties involved make every effort to make cross-border deliveries by train as quickly as possible.

Many goods ordered online by foreign consumers leave the warehouses in Chinese cities and are transported by road before being loaded onto freight trains at the Alataw-Pass freight yard. According to Sun, this combination of different modes of transport only takes a fifth of the time it would take to transport the products by sea.

Railway workers make full use of the capacities of all freight trains in order to load shipments efficiently and promptly. In addition, customs officers work around the clock to reduce clearance times.

"We work all day and we process orders no matter what time it is," said Zhang Xiaodong, a customs officer at the Alataw Pass China freight yard.

"It is our shared belief that time is the most important factor in cross-border e-commerce," said Sun. "A one minute delay means another minute of waiting for many, many online shoppers."

To reduce the risk of cross-border COVID-19 transmission, everyone entering the Alataw Pass freight yard or the control area for e-commerce goods must wear a protective suit. Containers passing the train station undergo a series of disinfection measures.

"We are not only in a race against time, but also against the virus," said customs officer Zhang Xiaodong.

Source: Xinhua News Agency