In the first three quarters of this year, total trade between China and ASEAN has reached RMB 4.7 trillion, an increase of 15.2%, accounting for 15.1% of China’s total foreign trade. Among which, export to ASEAN has climbed 22% to RMB 2.73 trillion, an import from ASEAN is RMB 1.97 trillion, a rise of 6.9%. Obviously, China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partners.
With the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), trade and investment cooperation between China and ASEAN are ushering in an ever-increasing number of opportunities. There is no doubt that total trade between China and ASEAN will continue to expand rapidly in the future. Moreover, China is devoting unprecedented efforts to prepare for this development by constructing a canal, the Pinglu Canal, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region neighboring the ASEAN bloc, with the intention to expedite the transportation of goods between China and ASEAN.
The construction of the Pinglu Canal, planned with a total length of about 135 kilometers and anticipated to cost an estimated total investment exceeding RMB 72 billion, has already commenced in August this year. It is scheduled to open to navigation in four years and is designed to handle 5,000-ton ships. The Pinglu Canal starts from county-level Hengzhou City of Nanning City, and enters Beibu Gulf via Qinjiang River in Lingshan County of Qinzhou City, according to Pinglu Canal Group Co., Ltd.
According to Wu Peng, an expert in the planning and design of the Pinglu Canal project, “The Pinglu Canal will be a pioneering feat in the history of canal construction in China, as it is the largest canal of its kind. Inland ships can sail directly to seaport. Upon completion, it will become a very busy canal noted for a large volume of freights, large-tonnage ships and a large number of vessels.”
In the past, for goods from southwest China to go to the sea by waterway, options were either via the Yangtze River or the Xijiang River, but a river running southward to the sea was nonexistent. The estuary of Yangtze River is in eastern China, more than 2,000 kilometers away from the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, while the estuary of the Xijiang River is in Guangzhou in southeastern China. These two conduits of gaining access to the sea are both extremely time-consuming.
“The Pinglu Canal will open up a new channel for the main stream of the Xijiang River to enter the sea in the shortest distance. Through the Pinglu Canal, the inland river voyage of goods going from the southwestern region to the sea will be shortened by more than 560 kilometers compared with that through Guangzhou.” Chen Hongqi, Secretary of the CPC Committee of the Transportation Department of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said that when the canal is completed, the southwestern and northwestern regions of China will be bolstered by the shortest, most economical and most convenient passage to the sea.
According to analysis from industry insiders, the Pinglu Canal will open up a new sea-entry avenue of the Xijiang Golden Waterway, forming a river-sea circulation waterway channel that will effectively connect with the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, promote the continuous deepening of Guangxi’s and southwestern China’s economic and trade cooperation with ASEAN and RCEP countries, and better integrate Guangxi and the southwestern region of China into the building of a China-ASEAN community of common destiny.
When the project is completed, the new canal will not only facilitate China-ASEAN trade, but will also bring forth tremendous opportunities for Guangxi, where the canal is located. At present, locations everywhere along the canal have begun to deploy more production factors and near-port industries around the project and in coastal ports. After the canal becomes navigable, these supporting industries along the route will form a huge competitive advantage.
As the starting point of the Pinglu Canal, Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is planning the construction of the Nanning East New Town, taking the initiative to integrate into the Pinglu Canal economic belt, cultivating advantageous near-port industrial clusters, and vigorously establishing a new energy vehicle and spare parts manufacturing base to serve the ASEAN market, with the vision to develop the Nanning East New Town into a “model industry park for seaward economic development”.
“Upon completion, the canal will bring forth immense opportunities to Guangxi, and foster the formation of an all-round opening-up structure characterized by interconnectivity both at home and abroad, linkage between land and sea, and complementariness between east and west. The project will profoundly change the industrial layout, economic and social development structure of Guangxi, and propel Guangxi to accelerate its transformation into a Beibu Gulf international gateway port and international hub seaport,” said Ouyang Bin, a member of the CPC Committee of the Transportation Department of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Source: Pinglu Canal Group Co., Ltd.