Yiwu, China’s mega wholesale center, is growing globally. Some 70, 000 small merchants in this international mart sell “Made in Yiwu” to over 200 countries and regions, with the Belt and Road logistics system spanning in all directions. For Yu Lingli and her handmade China dolls, it boosts sales and cuts costs.
“We sell products to many countries around the world. The freight train is very safe for cargo. It has shortened the transit time and sped up capital turnover. One of my customers says it relieves cash flow pressure and brings big savings for delivery,” said Yu.
At Yiwu Railway Port, small commodities and other cargo go through customs clearance and inspection, before traveling to overseas markets along the silk route railway.
This freight railway network, which begins in Yiwu reaches nine countries in Central Asia and Europe. And authorities say they have helped open up more trading destinations along the route. The railway express saves a lot of travel time compared to shipping things by sea. From here to Spain’s capital Madrid, the trans-continental voyage takes only 18 days.
The container train from Yiwu to Madrid has been operating twice a month for over three years since the rail line opened. By the end of July 2018, it had made 460 trans-Eurasia trips. Its journeys in the first half of 2018 were doubled compared to the same period last year. And the local government says its every express train leaving from Yiwu is full.
“China-Europe freight trains serve as a platform for more convenient trade and logistics. Our exports are mainly general merchandise while most of the imports are food, general merchandise, automotive components and machine tools. I think Yiwu has a distinct advantage in terms of source of goods. Goods with relatively higher added value prefer to be shipped by rail,” said Wang Meicai, general manager of Yiwu Landport Group.
The railway line meets a flourishing market demand, and it’s a market-driven operation. A private company has been operating container trains from Yiwu, under the commercial brand YXE, which stands for Yiwu, Xinjiang and Europe. It is China’s only rail link to Europe run by the private-funded company. The chairman of the company says private enterprise is more flexible and innovative in expanding the market.
“We aim to be more market-driven and independent of government subsidies, to show respect to foreign railway companies and customs. Europe, for example, is an open capital market. I think potential players are closely watching where China will take its freight train services. It is our mission to lead the marketization of China’s railways to Europe,” said Feng Xubin, chairman of Timex Industrial Investment.
As one step toward that ambition, YXE has recently sent a special train to Moscow, carrying parcels for China’s leading delivery service provider Yuantong. The company has also worked with other postal companies and cross-border e-commerce enterprises. YXE’s partners hope this will help them tap the Belt and Road markets. In the long-term plan of the Belt and Road Initiative, this efficient China-Europe logistics channel is letting more players take part.