These maps show how far China’s freight rail stretches across Asia


The first freight train of the Lancang-Mekong Express will depart Kunming, China on January 10, 2022 for the 26-hour journey to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images

BEIJING — Over the past two years, China has announced the opening of new freight trains, and cross-border railroads have become a feature of meetings between President Xi Jinping and regional leaders.

It’s all part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, an intricate network of infrastructure projects linking China with its trading partners.

Let’s see where railways are being built on the Asian continent.

The project includes high-speed passenger trains.

In April, China’s state-owned railway ticketing app launched online reservations for the 10.5-hour train from Yunnan to the Lao capital. If all goes according to plan, the route will one day connect Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, with Cambodia’s riverside capital, Phnom Penh.

In the last six months, China has also opened freight train lines. Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, According to state media.

Far North China, last year opened the iron bridge Between Heilongjiang and rail line to Transporting coal from mines in Mongolia to China According to state media, it is underway.

These freight lines add to China’s relatively old rail network through Central Asia — It connects Yiwu in eastern China with London.

While it is difficult to ascertain how all rail lines operate, official reports offer a glimpse of how China’s Belt and Road ambitions are playing out.

CNBC analyzed the report to produce the following schematics of the railroads built and planned by region.

Based on official reports and state-run media, it planned and built railways in regions in southern China.


Based on official reports and state media, it planned and built railways in the southeastern regions of China.


Based on official reports and state media, it built a railway across the border between Russia and northern China.


Based on official reports and state media, it planned and built a railway across the border between Mongolia and northern China.


Building railways in regions in western China based on official reports and state media.


China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative was launched in the early days of President Xi Jinping in 2013. The program is widely seen as Beijing’s effort to increase its global influence through the development of rail, sea and other transportation routes from Asia to Europe and Africa.

“Separating Europe from the United States, at least as far as possible, is a key foreign policy goal for China, and a deeper economy facilitated by stronger rail links,” said Stephen Olson, senior research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation. Consolidation will help,” he said.

Similarly, “part of China’s motivation for building a rail network in ASEAN is to put China at the center of regional trade,” he said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc of 10 countries.

Olsson said rail could be a “game changer” for inland economies like Laos, but the responsibility to develop logistics and other infrastructure to fully utilize new rail lines for trade is purposeful. He said that it is also in the country of the earth.

one-third of China’s trade

According to Beijing, trade with Belt and Road countries accounts for about a third of China’s total imports and exports. According to official statistics, trading volume in the first quarter increased by 16.8% year-on-year, slowing his pace overall last year by 19.4%.

Françoise Huang, senior economist at Allianz Trade, said it was difficult to measure the actual boost to trade from rail lines. She pointed out that transporting goods by rail is considerably cheaper than by air and faster than by land or sea.

She said the report’s assessment shows that railroads are being used more to transport Chinese exports to other countries, rather than imports into China.

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Since 2013, Belt and Road related construction contracts have been $573 billion total, Including non-financial investments, the figure will reach nearly $1 trillion, according to estimates released in January by Christophe Nedhpil, the founding director of the Green Finance and Development Center at Fudan University in Shanghai, the report said. .

Critics say that through large-scale infrastructure projects, China imposes heavy debt on developing countries while benefiting Chinese companies, which are often state-owned.

“An analysis of the impact of freight traffic will not be separate from an analysis of the overall impact of our close trade relationship with China,” Olson said.

“For some countries, this may work better than others. China’s economy is much larger than any single economy in ASEAN, sometimes leading to unbalanced and unsustainable trade relations. It creates potential leverage.”

In its March annual report, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s premier economic planning agency, highlighted progress in international rail construction. The commission also said it was aware of the risks.

“We develop major overseas projects while preventing associated risks, assist companies in preventing and mitigating overseas investment risks, and work to monitor, assess, and early warning risks associated with overseas projects. We quickly worked to build a comprehensive service platform for

China will host the 3rd Belt and Road Forum this year at an undecided date. Xi is Invite Russian President Vladimir Putinsaid state media.

— CNBC’s Bryn Bache contributed to this report.

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