Published: 17:15, July 5, 2024
Leaders open new Eurasian transport link
By Zhang Yunbi

Xi, Tokayev launch shipments on key Trans-Caspian Express route

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev attended the opening ceremony for the China-Europe Trans-Caspian Express via video link on July 3, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

President Xi Jinping and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on July 3 attended the opening ceremony for the China-Europe Trans-Caspian Express, a major international connectivity project that spans the Eurasian region.

The ceremony marked the official completion of a multidimensional connectivity network integrating highways, railways, airlines, and pipelines, in order to better link Asia with Europe via the Caspian Sea, which is the world’s largest inland body of water.

We need to make the network connecting our two countries more multidimensional, diverse, and efficient.

Xi Jinping, Chinese president

With its combined highway-sea transportation channel, the express route allows trucks carrying consignments to traverse the Eurasian region aboard cargo vessels.

The opening ceremony was held via video link at the presidential palace in the Kazakh capital, Astana, where Xi and Tokayev sat next to each other watching the event unfold on a big screen.

The two heads of state first watched a video about the building of the China-Europe trans-Caspian route. The project head on the Kazakh side briefed them on the preparations made, and then the project head on the Chinese side invited the leaders to declare the route open.

The trans-Caspian route was formally opened to operations as Xi and Tokayev jointly gave the command, “Start the shipment!”

Cargo trucks bearing Chinese vehicle registration plates and featuring the sign “China-Europe Trans-Caspian Express” gathered on July 3 at the port of Kuryk in Kazakhstan, waiting to board cargo vessels.

Xi and Tokayev watched in real time as the trucks boarded a ship and consignment containers were unloaded. The ceremonial start triggered a round of warm applause at the presidential palace.

The Caspian Sea is bordered in the northeast by Kazakhstan, in the southeast by Turkmenistan, in the south by Iran, in the southwest by Azerbaijan, and in the northwest by Russia. The port of Kuryk is located on the eastern coast of the sea in a natural bay, which facilitates transshipment, loading, and unloading operations. This is the first time that shipment-use vehicles from China arrived at a Caspian Sea port using a highway link.

Among the Chinese vehicles, there were seven from Central China’s Henan province, according to the Henan Daily newspaper. They are loaded with commodities such as Chinese-made tractors, fireproof materials, and science and technology products, the newspaper said.

Last month, the trucks departed from Henan and left China through the Horgos land port in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. They are scheduled to cross the Caspian Sea via Kazakhstan and are bound for countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In a signed article published in Kazakh media on July 2, Xi highlighted the need to deepen bilateral cooperation in traditional sectors and enhance the efficiency of customs clearance at border ports.

“We need to ensure the high-quality operation of the China-Europe Railway Express, advance the construction of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, and make the network connecting our two countries more multidimensional, diverse and efficient,” Xi wrote.