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Home >> Business
UPDATED: 10:10, July 02, 2006
Qinghai-Tibet railway not just a big deal for Chinese
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Along with the maiden run of the landmark Qinghai-Tibet railway on Saturday, not only national pride is on the rise, but also infrastructure convenience for Sino- South Asian trade boom is largely improved.

The newly launched railway will promote the integration of Tibet with the interior of China and help pave the way for trade between the country and India and Nepal and other southern Asian nations to expand more conveniently, according to Wei Houkai, director of the research center for development of western regions under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The railway will shorten Tibet's distance to the world," he said.

Ratna Kumar Tuladhar, a 45-year-old businessman from Nepal, sells silver ware, statues of Buddha and Thangka, traditional Himalayan-style arts work, at Bakor Street in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

After the Qinghai-Tibet railway opened to traffic, he would take the train to purchase cheap and fine electronic gadgets in the hinterland of China for future sale in Nepal, Tuladhar said.

"In inland China, I will recruit some agents for arts and crafts commodities with Nepalese characteristics. Now I don't need to make a detour by marine route to get to China for my export business. The new railroad allow me much easier access to the Chinese hinterland," he added.

Avinash Datta, who works for Mahindra company, one of the top 10 biggest enterprises in India, said that he felt exciting when hearing the completion of the railway.

He said that the railway will help improve Tibet's agricultural production and create a bigger market for investors from India.

Before the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, Tibet was linked with the rest of China by several highways and air routes. The railway will shorten the travel time, and at the same time, it means much lowered cost of transport.

In July, besides the newly launched history-making railway, Nyingchi, southeast of Lhasa, will open the region's third airport. Meanwhile, China and India will reopen, after 44 years' closure, border trade at the Nathu La Pass, which perches on the border between the Sikkim section of India and Yadong County in Xigaze Prefecture of Tibet.

Yadong is one of major border ports in Tibet. Although it locates 460 kilometers away southwest from Lhasa, local government sources said that the railway with the destination in Lhasa would bring more and better goods to this area.

The Tibetan county is 300 kilometers from Bhutan's capital city of Thimbu, and 600 kilometers from Dacca, capital of Bengal. In addition to that, the connection point of a railway network in India is only dozens of kilometers from the port.

Compared with those "big businessmen who travel by air", the merchants on the Sino-Indian border who trudge on the rugged road of Himalaya with horses or yaks all year round are extremely eager to see the improvement of traffic in Tibet.

In the trade market of Pran, a small Indian county on the juncture of Nepal, India and China's Tibet, 54-year-old Indian businessman Singh was trading with Tibetans. "We like to trade with businessmen in Tibet," he said."Their income has increased greatly in recent years and they have big requirements."

To Singh's satisfaction, textiles, handicrafts like bronze ware and commodities like perfume are selling well.

The dark-skin businessman predicts that the operation of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway would greatly accelerate economic and trade developments in Pran, although it is 1,300 kilometers away from Tibet's capital city of Lhasa.

China has vowed to build a railway network to connect different parts of Tibet after the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

"The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is not just a big deal for the Chinese," said Singh.

According to Hao Peng, vice chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region in charge of commerce, the autonomous region's foreign trade stood at only 200 million U.S. dollars last year. Upon the reopening of Sino-Indian border trade, the total foreign trade volume will increase by several billion U.S. dollars annually.

With the reopening of Nathu La Pass, iron ore and livestock products from India and wool, silk, cashmere, herbal medicine and electric appliances from China can be transported into the other country through the short cut, trade observers said.

"The resumption of border trade is a great historic event, not only for enlarging trade, but also for greater relations between the two great countries," said Dr. Christy Fernandez, additional secretary of the Indian Department of Commerce.

"China's strategy to develop its western regions and the launching of the Qinghai-Tibet railway imply that it is a long- term trend for China and India to surmount various difficulties to expand economic cooperation through utilization of geographic advantages," said Prof. Liu Jiangyong with the research institute of international affairs under the prestigious Tsinghua University.

To build a railway in Tibet was the dream of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the forerunner of China's democratic revolution, a dream that did not come true until New China was founded in 1949.

Construction of the first phase of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a section from Qinghai's provincial capital city of Xining to Golmud, started in 1958 and became operational in 1984. For financial and technical reasons, construction of the more challenging second phase from Golmud to Lhasa didn't start until June 2001.

With its second phase completed in October 2005, the 1,956- kilometer-long Qinghai-Tibet Railway was the first ever rail track on the "roof of the world" and the first one connecting the Himalayan territory with the rest of China. It is the highest and longest plateau railroad in the world.

The Chinese government is to build three more railway lines in Tibet as extensions of the newly-completed railway, which would link the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, with Nyingchi to the east, and Xigaze to the west, while the third will link Xigaze with Yadong, a major trading town on the China-India border.

The new lines would be built in 10 years, and increase Tibet's total railway length to more than 2,000 kilometers.

Source: Xinhua

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