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Wednesday, August 23, 2000, updated at 14:03(GMT+8)

Bright Prospect of New Eurasian Continental Bridge

As this reporter stood on Qinhuangdao Harbor, an official there told him, "Here is one of the starting points of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge which links Rotterdam of the Netherlands in the west, constituting a major international passageway which traverses the two continents of Asia and Europe, connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and realizes sea-land-sea transportation."

This passageway was put through as a whole in September 1990, as indicated by the realization of the historic joining of railways of China and the former Soviet Union at the Alatau Pass. The continental bridge extends 10,800 km in length and involves more than 30 countries and regions. It has replaced the caravan moving westward slowly along the boundless Gobi desert, thus earning it the name of the new Silk Road of modern times.

The opening of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge has provided new opportunities and solid carriers for expanding economic, trading and technological exchanges of countries or regions along the bridge, it has closely linked up China's hinterland with Central Asian and European countries and has at the same time opened up a new passage for the trade of Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and even the Southeast Asian region and East European, West European, Central Asian and West Asian countries.

This railway line can also provide direct railway links between Far Eastern ports and Western Europe, it is 2,000 km shorter than the existing Siberian Railway, and saves 20 percent expense compared with traveling by ship and reduces the traveling time by half. In brief, the continental bridge transport has broad prospect, and huge economic potential, its opening is of far-reaching significance.

Many experts have said with certainty that the birth of the new continental bridge predicts that on the basis of the river and coastal economies, the world economy has gradually stepped into a new economic age-the continental bridge economic age. The international community has been highly concerned about and paid great attention to it. Many countries and regions have gone into action and devoted efforts to international cooperation in the development of the new continental bridge.

In May 1993, the European Union (EU) initiated the project "The Silk Road of the 21st Century". In the meantime, communication and trade ministers of the five Central Asian countries and the three south Caucasus countries agreed to implement the program for developing the East-West communications line leading to Central Asia via Europe, the Black Sea, Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The project began to be put into practice in 1995, its main objective is to improve the trade and cooperative relations between Central Asia and Europe.

In October 1994, railway ministers of China, Russia and five Central Asian countries held a conference in Beijing, at which they formulated a railway through transport development program between various countries, improved transport organizational measures and signed a joint communique on guaranteeing unimpeded passenger and cargo transport on the continental bridge.

On July 3, 1998, leaders of the five countries-China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, met in Alma-Ata, President Jiang Zemin attended and delivered an important speech at the meeting, he pointed out in his speech, "China will continue to take an active part in the construction of the Eurasian continental bridge and will provide water transport convenience for relevant counties." The Joint Statement signed by the five countries after the meeting stressed, "the various parties deem it necessary to energetically strengthen and encourage large-scale, long-term cooperation in all economic fields, including oil/gas and pipe infrastructure facilities, as well as in the fields of railway, highway, waterway and airway". The various parties welcomed all interested countries and companies to participate in these projects." The Joint Statement signed this time as well as the agreement signed in Shanghai by five countries concerning strengthening trust in the military arena along the border areas and other important documents have created a vary favorable international environment for developing the new Eurasian continental bridge international cooperation and have promoted cooperation in this region.

At present, making use of the new Eurasian continental bridge are many countries including China, Central Asian and European countries as well as Japan, the ROK and the United States. For China, Central Asian and East European countries, the opening of areas along the bridge can help them better absorb the investment, technology and management expertise of the international community and thus speed up their economic development. For Japan and developed West European counties, this region is a gigantic market with a large population and rich resources, so it is an ideal place for these countries to export their capital, technology and management. Statistics reveal that more than 100 countries and regions including EU countries and Japan have entered the markets of various Central Asian countries. Owing to its advantageous geographical position and its advantage in providing good and cheap products, China enjoys a fairly large share of the imports and exports of the Central Asian countries, for instance, products coming from China account for 43 percent of the total value of Kazakhstan's imports.

At the same time, China is the 10th large importer of products from Kazakhstan. In addition, China has set up a batch of solely Chinese-funded enterprises and joint ventures in Central Asian countries. It is thus clear that the continental bridge has played an increasingly evident radiating role in boosting economic development in the surrounding areas. International continental bridge experts praise China for its "initiating" and "leading" role in the development and cooperation in the new Eurasian Continental Bridge and hope that China will further strengthen its cooperation with Central Asian and European countries, so as to re-create the magnificence of the Silk Road.

At the turn of the century, the strategic decision made by the Chinese government on the large-scale development of the western region is an important move for bringing about the coordinated development of the regional economy. More than 4,000 km of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge lie within the territory of China, over 3,000 km of which run through the western region, construction of the continental bridge can further speed up the process of the large-scale development of the western region, while western development, in turn, provides great opportunities for the construction of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge.

Experts proposed making use of the resource advantage of the western region to set up a feature "resources development zone", i.e., considering the establishment of a new-type "new industrial development zone" with resources development and processing and manufacturing as leading industries along the bridge areas, and construction of an agricultural development and cooperation zone along the bridge to develop water-saving agriculture, improved varieties of agriculture and food industries and develop fine vegetables, fruits and flowers and gear them to domestic and international markets, these measures not only can accelerate the great economic advancement of the western region, but also can promote the development of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge.

It should be pointed out here that the New Eurasian Continental Bridge is not merely for railway transport, it is progressing gradually toward a compound three-dimensional transport passageway that encompasses railway, highway, airway, waterway and pipeline as well as cable communication. Its development and construction comply with the general trend of economic globalization and regional cooperation, it is the common choice of the countries and people along the bridge and has great potential and a bright prospect.

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The opening of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge has provided new opportunities and solid carriers for expanding economic, trading and technological exchanges of countries or regions along the bridge.

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