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Border city booms with deepening China-Russia economic ties

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-30 11:05

ZABAIKALSK - Increased traffic of freight and people has brought prosperity to Zabaikalsk, a small city in the Far East near the Russian-Chinese border, as the two countries are expanding economic and trade cooperation.

Timur, the owner of a small eatery by a highway linking Zabaikalsk and China's largest land border port of Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, had a lot of business in the past two years thanks to an inflow of diners.

"Many truck drivers came to eat at my restaurant. In summer, I received Chinese tourists from time to time," he said, adding that quite a number of local people made a fortune from driving trucks or engaging in trade at the border just miles away.

Outside Timur's restaurant, roaring trucks loaded with Russian beer, candies and beverages sped away toward Manzhouli. Just on the other side of the road, vehicles were busy delivering Chinese products to Zabaikalsk from the opposite direction.

According to data from Manzhouli customs, the volume of road freight passing through the Manzhouli port grew 26.5 percent year-on-year to about 625,000 tons in the first 10 months of this year.

Shops selling Chinese clothes, jewelry and electronic devices can be seen on the streets of Zabaikalsk flanked by buildings from the Soviet era. Chinese clothes are warmly welcomed here, a shop owner said.

Closer business ties have boosted two-way flows of people as well. Buses shuttling between Zabaikalsk and Manzhouli are usually packed with Russian and Chinese traders.

Official data showed that in the first half of 2017, about 830,000 cross-border trips were made by road travel through the Manzhouli port.

Timur said that in the city of Zabaikalsk with a population of more than 10,000, a majority of people have been to China and many can speak Chinese. His restaurant's menu is trilingual -- written in Russian, Chinese and Mongolian.

An international railway runs through Zabaikalsk, where Chinese trains have their wheels changed for wider Russian rails and vice versa. Currently, 41 rail routes connecting different Chinese and European cities pass through this Russian border city.

Zabaikalsk witnessed the inflow of Chinese machines, home appliances, garments and daily necessities and the outflow of European aircraft and vehicle components, clothes, as well as Russian lumber, paper pulp and other materials.

Data showed that in the first 10 months this year, 325 trains entered China through the Manzhouli port, up 45 percent year-on-year, while 762 trains left Manzhouli, up 9 percent.

Local authorities have been renovating the century-old Zabaikalsk railway station to cope with surging freight volume.

Wang Xiwei, a businessman from Inner Mongolia, said at the railway station that Russian products, such as candies, beer, chocolate, flour and cooking oil, sell well in China, and his company's imports of Russian food have doubled this year.

A taxi driver said he has been to Manzhouli and he liked it. "I hope that one day Zabaikalsk will be as prosperous as Manzhouli," he said.

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