China and Russia should work together to expand the handling capacity of their on-land border ports, given the rapidly growing economic and trade ties between them, officials from both countries said.
Speaking at the ongoing 18th China Harbin Fair for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Wang Limin, vice governor of Heilongjiang Province, said speeding up the construction of facilities and streamlining customs procedures of border ports were imperative criteria for trade growth.
Located in Northeast China, Heilongjiang shares a border of over 3,000 km with Russia.
Vice Governor Wang said that an economic belt along the Sino-Russian border has come into shape as a result of the boom in bilateral trade over the past decade.
Statistics show that Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces of Northeast China, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of North China and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region together account for almost one third of the country's trade volume with Russia, and Heilongjiang leads the pack with about one fifth of the total trade volume with the former Soviet Republic.
The province has 15 on-land port cities facing Russia, which is 70 percent of the total such ports in the country.
Bilateral trade volume soared from $6.83 billion in 1996 to $33.4 billion last year, making Russia the eighth largest trading partner of China.
In order to further facilitate trade growth, China has taken steps to expand the transportation facilities of its land ports with Russia.
The Manzhouli port city in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region now handles more than 60 percent of the cargo traded with Russia.
A multi-billion-yuan project to build more railway lines to enhance its cargo handling capacity is under way, which is expected to double the current volume to 40 million tons a year.
Meanwhile, after years of discussion, it is believed that substantial progress may be achieved in the near future in the building of a railway bridge over the Heilong River, which borders the two nations.
Valery Solomonovich Gurevich, government vice-chairman of Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region, said that China and Russia will start construction of the first railway bridge over the Heilong River (called Amur in Russia) at the end of this year.
The bridge will link Nizhneleninskoye in the Jewish Autonomous Region with Tongjiang in Heilongjiang Province.
The 2,197-m long bridge, with an estimated investment of nearly $230 million by Russian mine group Aricom, is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, Gurevich said.
However, construction is yet to begin, as the countries still need to smooth out some project details.
Another proposed plan for a bridge over the river, connecting Heihe of Heilongjiang and Blagoveshchensk of Amursk in Russia, has been under discussion for about 15 years.
Stanislav Muravskiy, consul-general of the Consulate General of the Russian
Federation in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning, said that no matter where the bridge is built, it will be conducive to the development of bilateral relations since the two countries need more transport links.
Muravskiy added that the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye bridge might become reality if the plan could be more convincing regarding its expected contribution to economic growth.
"The continuous increase of cargoes between the two countries means that we need more railway passages, which should be a transportation artery that can bring long-term mutual economic benefits," he said.
If the bridge fits the requirements, it will be possible for it to be set up in two years, as funds are no longer a problem for either country, he noted.
Cargo transportation between the two countries currently relies mainly on railway routes at three major on-land ports in Manzhouli of Inner Mongolia and Suifenhe in Heilongjiang.
The construction of a bridge across the Heilong River will create much shorter route.
Source: China Daily