Cargo is unloaded from a charter flight of Cargolux Airlines International in Zhengzhou Airport, Henan province. (Photo provided to China Daily)
More than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Silk Road unlocked the potential of economic exchanges and trade via camel with distant countries. Nowadays, air transportation is playing a key role.
A new "Silk Road in the air" is booming in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province, linking it all the way to Luxembourg. This international flight route between the two cities is helping boost global trade.
Statistics show total cargo shipments in and out of Zhengzhou Airport likely reached 500,000 metric tons in 2017, and cargo shipments to and from Luxembourg alone from Zhengzhou were expected to constitute 150,000 tons of this, or nearly a third of the total cargo shipments, said Eric Erbacher, sales director of Cargolux Airlines International, Europe's biggest all-cargo airline.
Pointing to several large containers of fresh fruit, he said: "It only takes about 19 flight hours to deliver the South American cherries to Zhengzhou by charter flight, perfectly fresh!"
"In South America, the cherries have enjoyed a bumper harvest, while China is booming now. We delivered them here directly to China to meet market demand as Christmas and New Year festivals are coming," Erbacher said in a LuxFresh store at the Zhengzhou Airport Economic Comprehensive Experimental Area.
President Xi Jinping first pushed for China to build a "Silk Road in the air" between Luxembourg and Zhengzhou on June 14, 2017, during a meeting with visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Beijing.
Xi said that China and Luxembourg should deepen cooperation in finance and production capacity within the framework of promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Initiative was proposed in 2013, and aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes while seeking common development and prosperity.
Erbacher said support for the "Silk Road in the air" showed a level of foresight and quick action needed to grasp new opportunities.
Xie Fuzhan, Party chief of Henan, said: "Unlike coastal cities, Zhengzhou is well connected by railway, air and highway."
He said both Luxembourg and Zhengzhou are key transport hubs that link airways and railways, and Zhengzhou has seen booming cooperation with Luxembourg in sectors including tourism, air transportation and railway shipping.
Since airfreight operations between the Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Logistics Co Ltd and Cargolux Airlines International began in 2014, the Zhengzhou-Luxembourg project has covered Germany, Belgium, Chile and the United States.
HNCA Logistics set up an integrated service platform of aviation logistics for international trade exchanges, and locals no longer need to go overseas to buy their favorite foreign products.
Tax benefits involving baggage and postal articles allow the products to be sold at competitive prices and are available to locals, and they will then be delivered to other provinces based on Zhengzhou's logistical advantages, HNCA said.
Kang Shuxia, deputy general manager of Henan Airport Group, said: "Their cross-border or e-commerce businesses deliver fresh fruits, seafood, Australian live cattle and electronic products like iPhones, and this has made Zhengzhou Airport become one of the most comprehensive inland airports right now."
"The high value-added products would be picked up by air," said Erbacher, "In the past, the fashion garments have been mainly sold in the summer and winter seasons. However, fashion changes each week, so it also becomes a huge potential item in air transportation."