City hosts forum in line with Belt and Road Initiative, Wang Qian reports.
Rizhao, a port city in East China's Shandong province, is welcoming more than 300 government and business leaders from China and five Central Asian nations for a cooperation forum in the city on Tuesday.
With the theme of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and boosting connectivity, the forum is a platform for pragmatic, social and trade cooperation between China and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Located at the southeastern end of Shandong Peninsula, Rizhao is a key city in the modern land and maritime Silk Road. Photos Provided to China Daily
Rizhao port's overall throughput capacity ranked eighth among China's seaports and 11th worldwide in 2014.
With 168.5 kilometers of coastline, Rizhao is dubbed "China's Excellent Tourism City".
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization good-neighborly and friendly cooperation committee and Rizhao municipal government are hosting this year's event.
Yang Jun, Party chief of Rizhao, said the forum would help forge closer economic and trade ties between Shandong province, especially the city of Rizhao, and Central Asian countries.
"As a key city of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Rizhao will actively embrace the 'Belt and Road' initiative and seize the opportunity to further expand its opening-up and broaden international cooperation channels," said Yang.
Located at the southeastern end of Shandong Peninsula, Rizhao is considered the starting point of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, which starts in Rizhao and Lianyungang in the East and passes through seven countries to end in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The route is an important part of the overland modern-day Silk Road.
The city of about 2.9 million people is in the middle of China's eastern coast and is less than 200 kilometers from Qingdao and Lianyungang, which are both major business hubs. Rizhao also acts as a transition point between the new land and maritime Silk Road and is a significant seaport that connects China to Central Asian regions.
"Such unique geographical advantages have greatly fueled the development of the city and given it huge potential to promote trade with countries along the new land and maritime Silk Road," said Yang.
Rizhao strengthens Central Asian ties
Local government statistics show that the total foreign trade volume of Rizhao is $34.77 billion last year, and the foreign trade between the city and countries along the modern-day Silk Road reached $7.66 billion, a 13.7 percent annual increase that accounted for 22 percent of the city's total.
Twenty-nine enterprises and institutions from these countries invested in Rizhao, with an actual investment of $1.05 billion, accounting for 27.8 percent of the city's total.
With shipping routes connecting to more than 100 countries and regions, Rizhao port has become an important international logistics hub for container shipping, bulk cargo, iron ore and crude oil.
Its overall throughput capacity hit 353 million metric tons last year, ranking it eighth among China's seaports and 11th worldwide. The port's throughput capacity for iron ore, grain, timber and cement outranked all other ports in the country.
A 120,000-square-metre port logistics park between China and Central Asian countries is due to be built in Rizhao. Rizhao Port Group and enterprises from five central Asian countries invested in the project, with registered capital of 60 million yuan ($9.67 million).
Rizhao plans to further improve its trade channels and facilities to become an all-round bridgehead for land, sea and air transport and trade. It has built a direct route for rail freight from Rizhao to Central Asia and Europe. An airport in the city is due to come into service by the end of the year.
"With these efforts, we hope to make the city not only a key transportation hub, but also a trade, logistics, financial and leisure-tourism center along the new land and maritime Silk Road," said Yang.