Transport links boost communication with Central Asian nations

The first flight on the Beijing-Xi'an-Astana route arrives in Astana, Kazakhstan, on April 21, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Regular scheduled flights between Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, and Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, began last month. The flights, operated by Air China, run every Monday and Friday.

The opening of the Xi'an-Astana direct route will open up a more convenient air channel between China and Central Asia, expanding the international air network, boosting opening-up and helping more companies "go global", according to Air China.

"The opening of the flight is because of the practical need for exchanges between China and Kazakhstan," said Zhang Sheng, vice-president of Air China.

He noted that it will promote exchanges and cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, culture and tourism between the countries, contributing to the development of their aviation markets and the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"The route will enable more young people from Central Asia to learn about China from all aspects. They can visit Xi'an and jointly help the city build into an international metropolis," said Epke Ehy, a student from Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan.

This month, two more international routes from Xi'an to other Central Asian countries were scheduled to be launched, expanding the air network between China and Central Asia, according to the city's development and reform commission.

"In 1992, when I went to Kazakhstan for business, I had to take a train from Xi'an to Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and then transfer to an international train to Almaty, Kazakhstan. The trip took two to three days," Ji Yanwei, chairman of the Shaanxi Chamber of Commerce in Central Asia, told Xi'an Daily.

Now the direct flight takes less than six hours from Xi'an to Astana.

Last month, the first dedicated freight train carrying new energy vehicles between Xi'an and Tashkent transported more than 260 new energy vehicles to the Uzbek capital. The trip took 12 days.

Also last month, a freight train carrying more than 700 metric tons of walnuts and walnut processing equipment left Shangluo, Shaanxi province, and headed to Samarkand, a major city in Uzbekistan. The journey took about eight days.

"Thanks to the freight train, we can sell walnuts to Central Asia and Europe," Wu Yanliang, a manager from Changsheng Agricultural Corp in Shangluo city, told Shaanxi TV.

According to China Railway Xi'an Group, the regional railway operator, Xi'an has opened 17 major freight rail routes between the city and Central Asian countries.

In the first quarter of this year, more than 1,100 freight trains between China and Europe left Xi'an, a year-on-year increase of 40 percent.

Last year, 4,639 such trains were operated, up more than 20 percent year-on-year.

Xinhua contributed to this story.