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One port and two zones promote the development of the port economic belt, and the core area becomes an open hub

Photo taken on July 14, 2022 shows workers transfer containers.After years of construction and development, the Urumqi International Land Port Area has become an important growth pole for Xinjiang's opening up and economic development in accordance with the development idea of "collecting cargoes, building parks, and gathering industries", injecting strong impetus into the construction of the "Belt and Road". (Tianshannet-Xinjiang Daily/ Cai Zengle)

From July 12th to 15th, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, stressed during his inspection in Xinjiang that the region has become a frontier of opening up and should promote the expansion of opening up and advance the building of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Since the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" initiative was proposed in 2013, Xinjiang has continued to innovate and explore, focusing on how to make most of its regional advantages and incorporate its regional opening-up strategy into the overall layout of the country's westward opening up.

Today, the building of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt, focusing on the construction of "one port, two zones, five centers, and a port economic belt", presents a prosperous scene in which the Urumqi International Land Port Area is the lead, and the economic development zones of Kashgar and Horgos serve as the fulcrum, in promoting the the development of the port economic belt while developing themselves. From spatial layout, industrial linkage, to connecting the domestic and international markets, Xinjiang has changed from a relatively closed inland region to a frontier of opening up.

Guarantee the smoothness of transport

Build a large channel for westward opening up

On July 16, 2022, a drop-trailer vehicle left the border bridge of the Alataw Pass land port for Kazakhstan. The vehicle, carrying more than 1,000 domestic goods, will eventually arrive in the UK. These goods were shipped from Jiangxi Province to the Alataw Pass, where they had been gathered for shipping out of the country.

Xinjiang borders 8 countries and is located at the intersection of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It has 20 ports open to the outside world, including 17 land ports and 3 air ports, which endows it with obvious advantages as a transportation hub.

In the overall layout of the country's westward opening up, Xinjiang's position as a hub for westward opening up is irreplaceable. This is also an important task that Xinjiang must undertake in its historical development.

How does this hub come to happen? In terms of space, Xinjiang has proposed to build a "one center and three fulcrums" China-Europe freight train hub system. One center is the Urumqi International Land Port Area, and the three fulcrums are the Alataw Pass, Horgos and Kashgar.

The route and direction is clear. Building a major channel for opening up and smoothing international logistics channels are the basic tasks of Xinjiang.

In terms of hardware, the Urumqi International Land Port Area has been continuously strengthening infrastructure construction and enhancing the bearing capacity of the hub, and has completed a number of supporting projects such as the expansion projects of the Urumqi China-Europe Railway Express Hub and the International Express Center. At present, functional projects such as the multimodal freight gathering center project of the Urumqi China-Europe Railway Express Hub, the cold chain logistics, the grain and oil trading center, and the Urumqi textile fiber and yarn industrial park are advancing in full swing. The Alataw Pass has launched 57 projects this year, including cold chain inspection of imported plant seedlings, fruits, and chilled aquatic products at designated supervision site, and renovation of closed storage areas. In the first half of this year, the Kashgar Economic Development Zone is expected to complete a government investment of 615 million yuan to build infrastructure.

In the first half of the year, the number of China-Europe (Central Asia) freight trains departing the Urumqi International Land Port Area increased by 36% year-on-year; the number of China-Europe (Central Asia) freight trains passing through the land ports of the Alataw Pass and Horgos reached 6,195, exceeding that of the last year in the same period.

Strengthen the foundation

Develop export-oriented industries

Xinjiang connects two large markets at home and abroad that have a population of more than 1.3 billion people. In addition to being a major channel to open up westward, it must also seize the opportunity presented by the "Belt and Road" construction, consolidate the foundation of its own industrial development, and promote the transformation from "channel economy" to "industrial economy" and "port economy".

At the beginning of July, 2022, the Asia-Europe Meigu (Horgos) International Biotechnology Park project was under intense construction. The project started construction in April with a planned total investment of 5 billion yuan. After the project is completed and fully put into operation, the products will be mainly sold to Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and parts of Europe, while also taking into account the local market in Xinjiang. It is expected to achieve an annual output value of 1.5 billion yuan while creating more than 1,500 local jobs.

“In the first half of the year, Horgos vigorously developed the commercial logistics and processing and manufacturing industries, and introduced a number of enterprises with high investment intensity, high economic benefits, long industrial chain and fast growth rate. Up to now, 22.865 billion yuan of investment are in place, a year-on-year increase of 37%,” said Hao Jianmin, deputy secretary of the Party Committee of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture and executive deputy secretary of the Party Working Committee of Horgos Economic Development Zone.

Since the beginning of this year, a wave of targeted investment promotion has been launched across Xinjiang, which is particularly evident so far the "one port, two zones, and a port economic belt" strategy is concerned.

Seizing the strategic opportunity of industrial gradient transfer of other domestic provinces (autonomous regions) and municipalities, relying on the hosting platforms such as the Electromechanical Technology Industrial Park, Comprehensive Bonded Zone, and North City Area Processing and Transformation Zone, focusing on electronic assembly and processing, electronic information, e-commerce (including cross-border e-commerce) and digital economy, Kashgar Economic Development Zone, has introduced 26 new enterprises in electronic information processing and labeling, and 17 enterprises in electromechanical manufacturing and metal products. In the first half of the year, 3.53 billion yuan of investment are in place, a year-on-year increase of 45.6%.

Dai Ronghua, head of Kashgar Oulike Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd., said that after being settled in the Kashgar Economic Development Zone, the company produced more than 3,000 freezers in just two months, and achieved sales revenue of 3.52 million yuan.

All these investment promotion projects have one thing in common, that is, they are optimistic about the region’s geographical advantage of having both ports and comprehensive bonded zones, as well as its benefiting policy advantage, and their products are aimed at both domestic and foreign markets.

In the first half of 2022, Xinjiang implemented 3,826 investment promotion projects, an increase of 60 over the same period last year, with 355.287 billion yuan investment fund being in place, an increase of 37% over the same period last year. Industries take roots in the region and inject strong impetus into the region’s economic development.

In pursuit of development

Accelerate the pace of opening up to attract investors

“Baktu Port accepts round-the-clock appointments of customs clearance for enterprises conducting import and export business, and will process and close an application with only one form to be filled and submitted with supporting documents. This will offer great convenience for enterprises,” according to Liu Chong, Deputy Director of the Tacheng Port Management Committee.

With the construction of a key development and opening-up pilot zone in Tacheng as the starting point, Tacheng Prefecture has made full use of the relevant foreign trade promotion policies of the state and the autonomous region, formulated and issued practical measures to maintain stability and improve the quality of foreign trade, has been encouraging and supporting foreign trade enterprises to become bigger and stronger. So far, in the port, bulk farm produce can be processed by enterprises directly before customs clearance. At present, the number of companies engaged in import and export trade in Baktu Port has increased from 7 to 139.

Optimizing the business environment and providing enterprises with an optimal soft environment for development has become the consensus of governments at all levels in Xinjiang.

Horgos has formulated 141 supporting measures for deepening the comprehensive reform of the business environment and a "positive + negative" list of 30 items, and the approval process for social and government investment projects has been shortened to 19 days and 38 days respectively, and 96 reform experiences regarding the pilot free trade zone have been replicated and promoted. Alashankou City has established and improved the "big customs clearance" coordination service mechanism, and reduced the time for container reloading to within 60 minutes per train in the first half of the year. The Kashgar Comprehensive Bonded Zone has strengthened interaction with the port, opened up an air corridor for westward opening up, built a multimodal transport system, and improved the efficiency of customs clearance at the port.

"We are making every effort to build a service highland with the simplest procedures, the fewest links, the lowest cost and the highest efficiency in Xinjiang," said Fan Zengxi, deputy mayor of Horgos.

The Horgos Economic Development Zone is a pilot in the introduction of talents, investment attraction, and park construction, and implements the customs clearance mechanism of 7 days/24 hours at the railway port, 7 days/12 hours at the highway port, and 7 days/10 hours at the cooperation center.

At present, the construction of open platforms such as Xinjiang Economic and Technological Development Zone, Comprehensive Bonded Zone, Border Economic Cooperation Zone, and Cross-border Economic Cooperation Zone has been accelerated, and the functions of agglomeration of industries and open cooperation have been further improved. As of 2021, Xinjiang has achieved actual direct investment of 6.4 billion USD in total in 63 countries and regions.

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