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Despite logistics woes, Chinese freight railway sustains supply chain for European Christmas shoppers



For Jiang Tong, it is just another busy day in his 30-year career as a train driver while he sat in the cab, started the engine, and drove the cargo train through the mist in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing.

After a more than 10,000-km journey across Eurasia in about two weeks, the “steel camels” along the modern Silk Road carry goods made in China, adding to Europeans’ joys of purchasing or receiving gifts for Christmas and the New Year.

MAJOR HUB IN EUROPE

Visiting local Christmas markets with a glass of mulled wine in hand and purchasing gifts for the beloved … From Berlin to London, people across Europe are eager to embrace a happy Christmas this year despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike last year, there are no flat-out bans on Christmas gatherings in most European countries, and despite the coronavirus-induced logistics and supply-chain bottlenecks, stores are replete with products, many of which are Chinese-made.

“We have Christmas decorations, gift packs and a wide variety of gift choices for children,” a storekeeper in a shopping mall in Warsaw, capital of Poland, said on Sunday.

Poland, the largest country in Central Eastern Europe, is a gateway for Chinese-made products entering the European Union (EU) market.

“All these products are made in China and sales are much better than last year,” said the storekeeper, without giving her name. “We have customers from Poland as well as our neighboring countries, including Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia.”

GD Poland, a 4,000-hectare Chinese shopping center where the store is located, is one of the largest distribution hubs of Chinese-made products in Central Eastern Europe. GD stands for the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

“We are proud of our wide variety of products imported directly from manufacturers in China and Vietnam. We offer affordable prices to our customers, who do not need to travel to different places searching for things on their shopping list,” said Dominik Zawadzki, a staff of the GD Poland.

Despite the COVID-19-induced disruptions of air and sea routes, which caused widespread concern over supply shortages this year, most of the China-Europe Railway Express trains have arrived in Poland on schedule.

Jiang, 52, was the first locomotive driver on the China-Europe freight train route from the southwestern Chinese municipality of Chongqing to Duisburg in Germany when the line was opened to traffic in 2011.

The train runs from Chongqing to Dazhou, a city located in the neighboring Sichuan Province, and then runs further north into Xinjiang and heads for Europe.

“We are busier than usual these days, as the freight volume keeps rising before Christmas and more trains are scheduled,” said Jiang.

YIWU MEANS “SANTA’S WORKSHOP”

China is a global factory that produces a large portion of Christmas-themed products sold in the world. About 80 percent of these products are exported from Yiwu, a small town dubbed as “Santa’s workshop” in east China’s Zhejiang Province.

This year, Christmas decoration manufacturers there saw rising orders.

“Sales are better than last year, up about 20-30 percent,” said Cai Qinliang, secretary general of the Yiwu Christmas Products Industry Association that has more than 200 members.

Christmas-themed products from Yiwu are mainly sold in South America, Russia, the EU and Southeast Asia. “The preferences and demands in different regions often vary,” said Cai.

Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club, has witnessed China’s growth into a global factory of Christmas goods.

“Our company was the first to start importing consumer goods and artifacts from China,” said Perry, whose father started the business of importing traditional Chinese goods since the 1950s.

During the pre-holiday season, British customers flooded London’s bustling Oxford Street for shopping, many of them found their best picks, from clothes, shoes, toys to smartphones and laptops.

“Chinese consumer goods for the Christmas season are very popular in the western markets today,” Perry said, adding that he was delighted to witness how friendly the relations have become between China and Europe and between China and Britain.

HOPE FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY

The booming Christmas sales of Chinese-made products and the momentum in foreign trade growth bring hope for a global economic recovery, according to John Pearson, global chief executive officer of DHL Express.

“China remains one of the vital engines to the world economic recovery and continues to post a steady recovery and growth itself,” Pearson said in an interview with Xinhua, adding that the country’s economic stability and sustainable growth are contributing to the recovery of the world economy.

Meanwhile, “China’s foreign trade maintains the momentum of growth this year thanks to the recovering global economy and trade that spur more demand for commodities from China, as well as the stable industrial chains in China,” Pearson added, stressing the interdependence of the Chinese and global economies in a globalized world.

According to figures published in October by China’s General Administration of Customs, China stood as one of the EU’s largest trading partners. In the first three quarters of this year, China’s exports to the EU totaled 3.88 trillion yuan (roughly 608.5 billion U.S. dollars), up 20.5 percent over the same period of last year.

“Like the Chinese Spring Festival, the Christmas holidays are a rare opportunity for family reunification. I wish foreign friends a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season,” Jiang said, walking away for his engine. Enditem


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