East China’s Shandong province is going all out to support this year’s summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which takes place in the coastal city of Qingdao on June 9 and 10.
Provincial officials expect the meeting to strengthen trade ties between Shandong and member nations in the SCO, a political, economic and military group comprising eight countries. The organization, created in 2001, has expanded last year to include India and Pakistan.
Shandong is ideally positioned to boost trade ties, especially in light of the China-inspired Belt and Road Initiative. The province, sits at the intersection of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, has already achieved outstanding results in promoting cultural and economic exchanges and people-to-people communications.
The summit, officials said, will be an opportunity to review the “Shanghai Spirit”, strengthening solidarity, mutual trust and all-round cooperation, and forging a closer community with a shared future among the SCO nations, which are Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit is an important diplomatic gathering held in China. Shandong will spare no efforts in providing quality services and support,” said Liu Jiayi, Party chief of Shandong province. “Shandong will continue to boost the opening-up by taking advantage from this summit.”
Statistics from the Department of Commerce of Shandong province show that the trade volume between Shandong and SCO member countries reached 118.6 billion yuan ($18.72 billion) in 2017, of which exports were 68.2 billion yuan and imports were 50.4 billion yuan. Direct investment from SCO members, mainly Russia and India, hit 1.25 billion yuan in 2017. Shandong’s direct investment in SCO countries was 440 million yuan in 2017.
The positive trend continued in the first quarter of 2018, with the import and export volume between Shandong and SCO countries reaching 28.7 billion yuan. The import volume was 14 billion yuan. Shandong’s direct investment in SCO countries was 30 million yuan.
She Chunming, head of the Department of Commerce in Shandong province, said that the economies of Shandong and SCO countries are mutually complementary, which is a key reason for the strengthened trade ties.
According to local authorities, cooperation in the energy sector plays an especially important role in supporting trade between Shandong and SCO countries.
Shandong, home to many refineries, has a growing demand for natural gas and crude oil. Businesses in Shandong imported crude oil valued at 10.03 billion yuan from SCO countries in Q1 this year, up 25.6 percent year-on-year, according to authorities.
Shandong, a traditional agriculture-supply hub in China, also serves an important role in helping some SCO countries, which have modest number of crops, to expand their agricultural products offerings.
Farmers in Daotian town in Shouguang, Weifang, have established an association to manage vegetable exports and related matters. Each year, about one-fourth of the whole vegetable output from Daotian is exported to Russia.
Xisen Potato Industry Group in Dezhou was assigned to cultivate new varieties of potatoes for Kazakhstan. The company said that some varieties have been planted in Kazakhstan for one year and are set to be promoted in the country soon.
“Those new varieties of potatoes have better resistance to drought and diseases. They are popular among local farmers because they have higher output volume than traditional varieties in Kazakhstan,” said Hu Baigeng, general manager of Xisen.
Hu also said Xisen has signed cooperation agreements with institutes in Kazakhstan to deepen potato-growing research in fields such as drought resistance and stress resistance.
In 2017, the value of Shandong’s agricultural products exported to and imported from SCO countries was 11.07 billion yuan. In addition to that commitment, Shandong also exported some of its advanced agricultural machines and technologies to those countries.
Agreements have been signed with many countries along the Belt and Road such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to promote bilateral technologies commercialization and trade. Shandong will also organize companies to participate in exhibitions, launch product demonstrations and sales centers and build warehouses in SCO countries.
The China-Asia Express Rail was launched in Qingdao in July 2015 to better connect Shandong with surrounding countries and regions. After a few years’ network expansion, nine cities including Weifang, Qingdao and Linyi have launched such transportation services.
China-Asia Express Rail service made its debut in Jinan, capital of Shandong, on April 13. The first train, which carried 54 containers, took 13 days to arrive in Uzbekistan, compared to about 20 days in traditional transportation mode. Shandong used to send goods to central Asian countries via road transport, which took a much longer time than train.
Shandong now has eight international freight train service routes. In the first quarter of 2018, China-Asia Express Rail made 56 journeys and China-European Express Rail has made 14 journeys from their points of origin in Shandong.
Aiming to promote industrial cluster development in foreign countries, Shandong has built nine economic and trade cooperative zones. Among these, Pakistan Haier and Ruba Economic Zone, China-Russia Tomsk State Wood Industry and Trade Cooperation Zone, Central European Trade and Logistics Cooperation Center in Hungry and the Sino-Hungarian Borsod Industrial Zone are national-level industrial parks.