New canal project expected to deepen China-ASEAN trade ties

Scheduled to start operation by the end of 2026, the waterway will be built with locks that are capable of accommodating navigable vessels of the 5000-tonnes class.

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This aerial photo taken on July 22, 2023 shows Qinzhou Port Station and a nearby industrial park in Qinzhou, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Cao Yiming)

The tranquility of the serene hillside in Qinzhou, nestled in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has been replaced by the persistent reverberations of dredgers, excavators, and dump trucks, serving as a resounding testament to the ongoing Pinglu Canal project.

About 120 km away from this bustling construction scene, technicians sitting inside an operation center located in the regional capital Nanning were monitoring the digital replica of the ongoing project. This replica, created through twinning technology, is constantly updated using real-time data gathered from various construction sites of the canal project.

Initiated in August last year, the Pinglu Canal boasts a planned investment of 72.7 billion yuan (about 10.1 billion U.S. dollars). The 134.2-km-long waterway stretches from the Xijin reservoir in the city of Hengzhou to Qinzhou port in the south of Guangxi.

Scheduled to start operation by the end of 2026, the waterway will be built with locks that are capable of accommodating navigable vessels of the 5000-tonnes class.

The Pinglu Canal is a flagship project on the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, an important trade and logistics passage jointly built by provincial-level regions in western China and ASEAN members. The canal is expected to synergize with the current expressways and railroads for efficient goods transportation once it reaches completion.

The Pinglu Canal and the Beibu Gulf, situated along the coasts of southern China and northern Vietnam, are poised to establish a vibrant partnership, said Wei Dejian, the chief engineer of the Pinglu Canal.

“It will provide the most cost-effective passage for goods from southwestern parts of the country to access the sea and further accelerate the structural adjustment of the transportation network in these regions,” Wei added.

The canal will facilitate the direct shipment of goods from Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guizhou through the Xijiang river system to ports in the Beibu Gulf of Guangxi, rather than routing them through neighboring Guangdong. This strategic shift is projected to significantly reduce the shipping distance by approximately 560 km.

By establishing a convenient and cost-effective passage to ASEAN countries, the Pinglu Canal has garnered widespread acclaim as a positive advancement that will enhance maritime connectivity with the bloc.

Impressed by the potential dividend the project is expected to deliver, Nepal’s Ambassador to China, Bishnu Pukar Shrestha, appeared convinced that it can not only facilitate China’s inland transportation but also enhance the interconnection between the country and the world after the canal is completed.

After visiting the construction site of the canal project, a Singaporean diplomat said that the project is bound to improve the transport conditions of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, boost transportation capacity and deepen high-quality engagement between China and the ASEAN countries

According to official data, the Pinglu Canal will not only serve as an ecologically friendly waterway but also help forge a vibrant economic belt centered around the cities of Nanning, Qinzhou, Beihai, Fangchenggang, and Guigang, with the total production value reaching 2.65 trillion yuan by 2035.

“Total investment into the city of Nanning has already exceeded 50 billion yuan as of this August, while the production output is estimated to surpass 90 billion yuan,” said Wang Changqing, deputy director of the Industry and Information Technology Bureau of Nanning.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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