China Forges Ahead With Transport Infrastructure Expansion

China is flexing its transportation muscles - extending its networks of freeways, railways, waterways and airports - reaching westward across China and Central Asia into Europe. Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng says the country will establish eight new commercial airports this year, bringing the total to 256 airports for commercial flights to serve this nation of 1.4 billion people.

At a news conference in Beijing on Monday, February 28, Minister Li told reporters that the construction of more than 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) of railways, and the construction or renovation of more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) of freeways, are scheduled for this year.

All this activity is in furtherance of China's Belt and Road Initiative, a dream of President Xi Jinping's based on the ancient Silk Road, first made public in 2013.

The Belt and Road Initiative has two arms - by land and by sea - a trans-continental passage that links China with southeast Asia, south Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe by land - and a 21st century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with southeast and south Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe.

As Minister Li told a special event for ambassadors last June in Beijing, China's transport policy aims at promoting global transport development.

CHINA WILL PROPERLY COPE WITH THE CHALLENGES COMING ALONG WITH INDUSTRIAL RESTRUCTURING, GREEN AND LOW-CARBON DEVELOPMENT, TECHNICAL INNOVATION, NEW URBANIZATION, AND POPULATION AGING, AND SPARE NO EFFORTS TO DEVELOP THE TRANSPORT THAT THE PEOPLE ARE SATISFIED WITH.

Li Xiaopeng

China's Transport Minister

China will continue to improve the Belt and Road connectivity, and promote major transport infrastructure cooperation projects with the Belt and Road partners, said Li. As of December 2021, the number of countries that have joined the Belt and Road Initiative by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with China is 145.

China's top leaders have paid great attention to transport infrastructure construction and have drawn up plans accordingly, said Dai Dongchang, vice-minister of transport to the reporters in Beijing on Monday.

A more convenient logistics network is also in the works. Li and Dai projected that parcels will be delivered to customers in China in just one day, to neighboring countries in two days and to major cities around the world in three days - at least according to plans drawn up by the Ministry of Transportation.

Li and Dai cited two guidelines on transport planning jointly released by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council in 2021 and in 2019 that are setting the stage for the way China approaches moving people and goods today.

These guidelines cover integrated transport-hub clusters, hub cities and hub ports, and stress quick construction of about 20 international comprehensive transport-hub cities and about 80 national ones.

Calling for integrated development of transportation with other industries, the guidelines emphasize empowering transport infrastructure with new technologies and coordinating the development of intelligent connected vehicles and smart cities.

"The guidelines have mapped out China's transport development over 30 years," Li explained.

The guideline released last year took a long-range view, saying that a more convenient and high-quality transportation network will be built by 2035, allowing most people to have access to a national highway within 15 minutes, a freeway in half an hour and a railway in an hour.

By 2035, a comprehensive transportation network of about 700,000 km (435,000 miles) will be established, Li said in Beijing Monday.

THE NETWORK WILL BE CONVENIENT, COST-EFFECTIVE, GREEN, INTELLIGENT AND SAFE, ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINE.

Li Xiaopeng

China's Transport Minister

According to plan, the overall shape of the 2035 network will cover 200,000 km (124,000 miles) of rail tracks, 460,000 km (285,830 miles) of roads and 25,000 km of waterways, with 27 coastal ports and 36 inland river ports, and about 400 civil aviation airports and 80 logistics hubs.

New rail links are being opened all the time.

On Monday, a freight train carrying electric vehicle parts and electric bicycle parts, among other cargo, left for Germany from Toumengang Port in the City of Taizhou. The train's departure marked the opening of a new freight route linking Taizhou with Europe.

China's electric vehicle sector is expanding quickly too.

For instance, in a deal involving three nations - China, Sweden, and the United States - the Chinese electric vehicle and battery maker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, has just made an agreement with the Swedish freight technology company Einride for the purchase of 200 BYD heavy-duty Class 8 8TT battery-electric trucks to deploy across the United States.

The trucks are equipped with 563 kWh iron phosphate battery packs and will have up to 185kW CCS1 charging capability. The extended range 8TT offers a working range of 200 miles per charge.

Most of the trucks will feature a cab styled by Wolfgang Josef Egger, the renowned former Audi chief designer. Egger's cabs offer improved aerodynamics, energy efficiency and an ergonomic interior.

In February, BYD began delivery of the first of these heavy-duty electric trucks, assembled in Lancaster, California, with all 200 vehicles set to be delivered over the coming year. It's the largest order of its kind outside of Asia, the company says.

Picking up on the need to limit climate change, BYD pledges its dedication to creating a "truly zero emission ecosystem offering technology for solar electricity generation, energy storage to save that electricity, and battery-electric vehicles powered by that clean energy."

"Globally, BYD is committed to corporate social responsibility, monitoring our supply chain in terms of human rights, environmental safety, hazardous substance control and intellectual property rights," the company pledges on its website. "We select only suppliers who share our commitment to labor practices, human rights standards and the environment."