Silk Road gets closer to reality
China, Kazakhstan to strengthen cargo capacity at two railway ports
Premier Li Keqiang meets with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]
China and Kazakhstan singed an agreement related to the Silk Road Economic Belt, a symbolic step in the transcontinental connectivity megaproject that officials and experts said is taking shape and may become a reality next year.
Together with his Kazakh counterpart, Karim Masimov, visiting Premier Li Keqiang witnessed the signing of the agreement in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana - the same city in which the Silk Road concept was proposed 15 months ago.
President Xi Jinping introduced the economic belt idea during his visit to Kazakhstan in September last year. The plan aims to revive the ancient Silk Road from China to Europe via Central Asia and Russia.
A joint statement after Li's talk with his Kazakh counterpart said China and Kazakhstan "will continue to strengthen the cargo shipping capacity" at two railway ports along their border, at Alataw Pass and Horgos.
Mirroring the shared goal of shaping a more powerful Silk Road, the statement said the move aims at "creating favorable conditions" for developing cross-border shipping of international cargo.
An international highway crossing Eurasia from China to Western Europe, which is expected to be finished soon, was also lauded by the two governments as being of "great significance".
Both governments also endorsed the start of a joint logistics terminal project in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, this May.
Chen Yurong, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the landmark projects, such as the base in Lianyungang, best live up to the expectations of Central Asian countries.
The projects, with grand channels of shipment, "give worldwide trade access to the commodities of the countries themselves and improve their trade situation", Chen said.
On Sunday, the two countries said "with satisfaction" that further implementing the joint connectivity projects "will be helpful to realizing the proposals made by the two leaders regarding rejuvenating the great Silk Road".
The Kazakh proposal is represented by its New Silk Road program, which was proposed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2012 and was launched to boost major transport infrastructure projects, including railways.
Kazakh senior officials, including the president, have said the country also hopes to link its own development plan to the China-led initiative and become a major passage in Eurasia.