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'One Belt, One Road' transforms Zhengzhou into a key logistics hub between China and Europe

City has been transformed into logistics hub by 'One Belt, One Road'. Reports byWade Shepard

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 10:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 10:10am

Zhengzhou has risen to become a major logistics and manufacturing hub on the Silk Road Economic Belt under China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, which seeks to increase political, economic and infrastructural connectivity among more than 60 countries from China to Western Europe.

"In the last two years, Zhengzhou has invested heavily in cargo handling at the local airport and created more capabilities in bringing in intermodal connections," says Steve Huang, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding China. "Regular cargo railway connections with Germany have also been established at Putian Station, making Zhengzhou the logistics hub in north China for rail and air freight as well as warehousing. It's a natural choice for companies shipping goods from China to the West, and vice versa."

As the "One Belt, One Road" initiative gains momentum, at least 14 cities across the mainland are now offering direct China-Europe cargo rail services. Zhengzhou was among the earliest adapters, starting a regular rail route in July 2013 which crosses the 10,000km expanse to Hamburg, Germany, in two weeks.

Since then, rail traffic between Zhengzhou and Europe has grown quickly. Last year, over 60,000 tonnes of cargo was shipped along the line, up from 36,000 tonnes the year previous. According to estimates by Zhengzhou Hub Development and Construction Company (ZIH), the Zhengzhou-Europe route amounts for 30 per cent of the total volume of the entire China-Europe rail empire. Typically, the cargo consists of high-value-added products such as electronics, automobile parts and industrial robotics.

While these transcontinental rail lines can't compete with ocean freight in terms of price, they do present a much-needed mid-range option between cheap but slow sea transport and fast but expensive air transport.

Another piece of Zhengzhou's "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure comes in the form of an airport economic zone. Dubbed an "aerotropolis," the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone is a complete urban economic area five times the size of Manhattan planned around Zhengzhou's Xinzheng International Airport, which is one of China's fastest-growing airports in terms of passenger and cargo figures.

The 415-square-kilometre zone is a hub for regional and international logistics and an epicentre for high-end, high-value-added manufacturing enterprises. It includes eight industrial parks, with businesses ranging from electronics and e-commerce to aviation and biomedicine.

The Western Europe-Western China highway also passes through Zhengzhou. When it is completed next year, this highway will stretch from the coast of China at Lianyungang through Kazakhstan to St Petersburg, Russia, making it possible to truck products between continents in just 10 days.

"One Belt, One Road" has transformed Zhengzhou into a global epicentre for logistics by integrating an array of vibrant industrial zones with a vast, interconnected network of rail, highway and air transportation options. Zhengzhou can now catch up with coastal export champions like Shanghai, Guangzhou or Tianjin," Huang says. "Hubs not only generate more traffic, but also attract warehousing and manufacturing businesses. Secondly, these businesses also draw more people, enlivening real estate and commerce. In addition, Zhengzhou's example has convinced many provincial governments in China that the creation of a logistics hub far from the coastal shore is possible."