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China Railway Express: A land bridge for China's booming tech trade


China's exports of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar panels, known as the "new three" products, are surging, exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) in a year-on-year increase of nearly 30 percent. To meet the growing demand for faster and more reliable transportation of these goods to Europe, China is increasingly utilizing the "China Railway Express" (CR Express) network.

CGTN traveled to Xi'an, a major hub city on the CR Express network, to explore this innovative logistics solution. Xi'an's freight trains bypass traditional seaports altogether, transporting goods directly to European destinations. The network's efficiency has made Xi'an a leader in international cargo transportation, boasting an annual capacity of over 66 million tonnes.

The CR Express offers a faster and more cost-effective alternative to both air and sea cargo. While cargo planes are significantly more expensive, cargo ships take considerably longer to reach Europe. The trains carry a wide range of goods, with electric vehicles being a particularly strong export category.

Ma Li, head of port management at the Xi'an International Trade and Logistics Park, sees great potential for electric vehicles in European markets. "The increase in our auto exports in recent years is largely driven by new energy vehicles," Ma said. "From an economic standpoint, consumers should welcome our new energy vehicles. This market has great potential."

The CR Express network's significance extends beyond economic benefits. Increased trade volume has led to deeper international collaboration. Ma highlighted this by mentioning the presence of over a dozen employees from Kazakhstan who relocated to Xi'an to work at the terminal. Their children even attend schools in the city, signifying a growing human connection alongside the economic ties.

The importance of the CR Express was underscored by the Red Sea crisis since November 2023, which disrupted a major global shipping lane. When traditional shipping routes became unreliable, CR Express stepped in to ensure seamless cross-border logistics.

Today, the CR Express network connects over 200 cities across 25 European countries. With over a thousand trains operating monthly, this land route has become a vital platform for trade and exchange between Asia and Europe. Ma concluded by expressing his belief that Xi'an is well-positioned to be a hub for further international cooperation and exchange along the Belt and Road Initiative.

(Some voices in the video have been generated by AI.)

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