China on Thursday demonstrated the integration of West Asia in its New Silk Road connectivity project by flagging a train from its trading hub of Yiwu to Tehran.
The container train will cover a journey of 10,399 km in its maiden journey to West Asia in14 days. It will exit China through Alataw Pass in western China’s Xinjiang province, and then pass through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before heading for the Iranian capital. Yiwu is already connected by trains that head for Duisburg in Germany and Madrid.
In a recent visit to Iran — a country that has just broken out of a sanctions regime — Chinese President Xi Jinping has imparted a new geopolitical dimension to Beijing-Tehran ties by signing a pact that would be valid for 25 years. A strategic partnership agreement that was also inked covers military and security cooperation, including intelligence sharing.
Besides, the Chinese President backed Iran’s full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), signalling Tehran’s integration in a growing network of Eurasian countries. Analysts say that flagging of the train to Tehran signals Iran’s participation in the China-initiated Belt and Road connectivity initiative, which hopes to inter-link Asia with Europe with expressways, railways, cyber-connectors, smart cities and industrial parks.
Xinhua is reporting that 4,000 businessmen from West Asia live in Yiwu, where more than 180 companies from the region have made investments. In 2015, the city exported goods worth 8.8 billion dollars to West Asia.