Boonyong is looking forward to lowering transport costs when a rail network connecting China and Thailand gets completed. Currently, his rice products are delivered by road and sea, which takes about three and five days, respectively.
With the recent implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Thailand launched an 845-km railway project linking the Thai capital Bangkok with the northeastern city of Nong Khai near Laos, part of a Pan-Asia railway network, in late 2015. The project will be connected to the China-Laos railway, which connects Laos with the vast railway system in China.
“It will only take us around 18 hours to send rice to China by train, with the freight cost lowered to about one-third of that of road or sea transport,” said Boonyong, a Thai businessman who sells rice to China at an annual profit of over 50 million yuan ($7.68 million).
Many Asian business people are placing high hopes on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to strengthen ties with countries in central and south Asia, the Middle East and east Europe through infrastructure and communication links.
The initiative ranked first among mechanisms that power Asia’s trade and investment, according to a report released at the ongoing Boao Forum in South China’s Hainan province.
The “2016 Asian Economy Forward-looking Indicator” was based on a survey targeting some 1,000 Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs, media experts, economists and government officials.
While attending the sub-forum “Dialogue of Asian Civilizations” at Boao, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also highlighted the cooperation opportunities the Belt and Road Initiative brought to his country and to regions along the routes.
The Belt and Road was proposed by China in 2013 as a trade and infrastructure network. It will connect Asia to Europe and Africa through the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Over the past few years, China has been pushing forward the initiative, and progress has been made in such areas as infrastructure and financial architecture.
For instance, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, initiated in 2013 and part of the Silk Road Economic Belt, aims at creating a 3,000-km economic corridor, a planned network of roads, railways and energy infrastructure, between the ports of Gwadar in Pakistan and Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Pakistani businessman Shah Hussain has been importing China-made mobile phones from Xinjiang and selling them in his hometown Gilgit. Like many of his Pakistani counterparts, his business has benefited from the construction of the corridor.
Chinese mobile phones are popular with the locals for their affordable prices and long battery life, he said, adding that imports have been safer and more convenient in recent years with the improvement of roads connecting the two countries.
Speaking at a press conference last month, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said more than 70 countries and international organizations have expressed interest in the Belt and Road Initiative, and over 30 countries have signed agreements with China to jointly build it.