Outline of the days
On 4 July, the delegation travelled to the Qingbaijiang Railway Port for a briefing and site visit. This was followed by an inspection of the Chengdu metro and a meeting with the Chengdu Rail Transport Group. The delegation then met with the Chengdu Urban Planning Bureau. The day concluded with a dinner with Chengdu-based Australian business representatives.
On 5 July, the delegation met with representatives of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress, before flying to Hong Kong.
Qingbaijiang Railway Port
The delegation held a site visit at the Qingbaijiang Railway Port, followed by a meeting with representatives of the Qingbaijiang District People’s Congress, led by Zhang Li, Chairwoman of the Qingbaijiang District People’s Congress, and Liu Wendao, Deputy Party Secretary.
The Qingbaijiang Railway Port is an important component of the Belt and Road initiative. Chengdu is the intersection of three of the principal trade routes being developed as part of the initiative—the New Silk Road Economic Belt, the Southern Silk Road Economic Belt and the Yangtze River Economic Belt (connecting to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road). It is also an important component of the comprehensive vision for the development of Chengdu, which will grow into the economic centre for western China, becoming a hub for integrated transport, trade and culture. The government is looking to integrate road, air and sea transport into the network, creating a seamless international system, including Australia. Qingbaijiang Railway Port is not competing with other major ports, but is part of an integrated network. Chengdu’s size is important to the viability of the rail port—providing a critical mass of consumption and investment potential.
Figure 4.1: Qingbaijiang Rail Port
The delegation being briefed on the development of the Qinbaijiang Rail Port, Chengdu.
Commencing construction in 2008, the Railway Port was officially approved as an international port in 2015. The first China-Europe block train arrived in Poland in 2016, and the free trade zone surrounding the railway port was officially listed in 2017. The facility provides a world-class international multimodal transportation hub, a cooperation centre for international production, an exhibition centre for international trade and an international supply chain management centre. As well as a container terminal, the port has facilities for the handling of vehicles, meat and grain, and a bonded logistics centre for bonded warehousing, e-commerce, value-added processing and customs clearance.
With streamlined signalling and customs clearances, the Block Trains cover the 9826km journey to Lodz in Poland in 12 days, with six trains travelling from Chengdu every week and five returning, travelling at one-third the time of sea transport and one-eighth of the cost of air transport. The railway port is part of the China (Sichuan) Pilot Free Trade Zone Chengdu Qingbaijiang Railway Port Area.
To date, the cumulative throughput of the railway port has been some 170 000 teu—2.25 million tons of cargo worth some ¥50 billion. Chengdu is the top ranking railway port in China. 2000 block trains have been dispatched so far, carrying forty-one containers each. The port plans to exceed one million teu by 2020 and four million teu by 2030. There are three principle lines operating to the west, Chengdu-Lodz, Chengdu-Moscow and Chengdu-Istanbul, with a range of destinations further afield. Chengdu is also link to maritime trade routes through China’s ports in the east.
The Free Trade Zone in Chengdu rail port is operating as a direct analogy to the free trade zones operating in sea ports. Operations are organised internationally across the network to make them seamless. This assists in the financial arrangements around the goods as well. There is collaboration with banks and businesses to make the system run smoothly. The free trade zone is vital to the operation.
The facility includes a cluster of national exhibition halls where countries can display goods. Currently three are in place—France, Italy and the Netherlands—with five more under negotiation. The exhibition halls are not just about enterprises—they are also about promoting countries and cultural exchange. The representatives of the Qingbaijiang District People’s Congress expressed a desire for Australia to become involved too.
E-commerce is an increasingly important part of trade and the work of the railway port. There is both direct supplier-consumer trade and purchases from warehouses operating within the bonded zone. E-commerce corporation Alibaba operates from the bonded zone.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Alexander thanked the representatives of the Qingbaijiang District People’s Congress for their time. He expressed the delegation’s high regard for the planning and design of infrastructure in Chengdu, and China’s aspirations to promote trade across the globe.
Chengdu Rail Transport Group
The delegation visited a construction site for the Chengdu metro, after which the Committee travelled on the metro system to meet with representatives of the Chengdu Rail Transport Group, which is responsible for the design, construction and operation of the metro system in Chengdu. Present at the meeting were, Gou Mingzhong (Deputy Chief Engineer), Zhou Junfeng (Deputy Director, Project Construction Centre, Construction Company), and Sun Qiong (Deputy Director, Passenger Transport Management Division, Operation Company).
Figure 4.2: Building the metro, Chengu
The delegation visiting a construction site for the Chengdu metro.
Mr Gou introduced the organisation and aspirations of the Chengdu Rail Transport Group. He noted that the Group, which consisted of an operating company and a construction company, was developing a first class comprehensive operation covering transit, construction, logistics and investment. Its goals are achieving comprehensive operations in 2 years and self-sufficiency in 5 years, operating as a profit-based company.
The plan for the metro system involved the continuing development of a city network based on a system of lines serving two city centres integrated with rail and bus transport. The network will consist of a series of circles and spokes creating a 30-minute city. The first line opened in 2010. There are six lines in operation with 151 stations covering 197km. In addition to the lines already in operation, there are ten lines under construction, extending the network by 350km and employing 50 000 workers. Government regulations support this intensive work program, and regular coordination meetings are held to facilitate works.
Prior to 2011, the network was fully funded by government. Since 2011, alternative funding mechanism have been put in place. Three of the metro lines are PPPs. The network has a throughput of 3.83 million passenger movements per day, comprising fifty per cent of the transport workload.
The Group’s future focus is transit oriented development (TOD) with an emphasis on property development and integrating the development of stations with the areas surrounding them.
Chengdu Urban Planning Bureau
The delegation met with staff of the Chengdu Urban Planning Bureau, led by Mr Zheng Zhi, Chief Engineer.
The delegation was introduced to the Chengdu Plan, the goal is to create a sustainable world-class city by 2035. The plan places Chengdu into its historical and geographical context within Sichuan Province, with a focus on preserving heritage as well as achieving modernisation. The plan has six measures or goals:
Create a city based on its two mountains, two rivers, two ecosystems and six districts.
Develop the Longquan Mountain forest garden and develop three green axes in the city.
Create a beautiful, liveable garden city, including exploiting the natural features of the extensive waterfront, and developing cultural and sporting precincts.
Creating an open city with access to the world. Critical to this is the development of the second airport, logistical capacity and international destinations and rail routes, opening access to global trade.
Developing better internal transport—creating a 30 minute city—particularly through the development and integration of rail and metro networks.
Creating a more comfortable and caring city through better public infrastructure.
Figure 4.3: Chengdu Urban Planning Bureau
The delegation receives a briefing on the urban development of Chengdu.
In discussion with the delegation, Mr Zheng noted the common issues facing cities in Australia and China, including legacy issues from past planning practices, infrastructure deficits, housing costs, congestion, the need for integrated transport and infrastructure development, and densification. He highlighted the challenges of geography and population in Chengdu—a population of 23 million sandwiched between two mountains. The solution was to go around the mountains and create a polycentric network of cities in connection with Chongqing to the east—‘progress the east, preserve the west’—in a pattern of development that would also stop compromising ecology. The connections with Chongqing would be through HSR, rapid rail and road. It was possible to travel between Chengdu and Chongqing in one hour by HSR.
Mr Zheng also emphasised the increasing openness to the outside world of Chinese society, at the instigation of the central government, and highlighted the potential contribution of Australia in things like innovation and openness, advanced manufacturing, services and culture, and collaboration in the development of garden cities.
His colleague Ms Lai had been to Melbourne and been impressed by the gardens and environmental protections in place, and saw the benefits of learning from Melbourne’s best practice. Chengdu was focussed on the garden city concept and saw opportunities for collaboration with Australia. Chengdu was aiming to be a people centric city focussing on quality of life. The delegation highlighted the importance of the sister state relationship between Sichuan and Victoria in promoting collaboration.
Mr Zheng agreed with the delegation that there were also opportunities for pursuing sporting contacts with Australia. He observed that implementing the ‘cultural city’ concept included sports matches. The Olympic sports city project would integrate sport, tourism, culture and business and would include building sporting venues.
Mr Alexander closed by thanking the representatives of the Chengdu urban planning Bureau for their time with the delegation, emphasising the importance of the relationship between Australia and China and the opportunities to build our countries together.
Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress
The delegation met with representatives of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress, led by Hou Xiaochun, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee, Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress.
Mr Hou welcomed the delegation to Sichuan, noting that it was famous as the birthplace of Deng Xiaoping.
Mr Alexander thanked Mr Hou, noting that while it was a long way to travel, the visit had been very worthwhile. He observed that the delegation was impressed by the progress China had made in infrastructure and city building, which was the purpose of the delegation’s visit. He observed that the visit was also a celebration of Australia’s relationship with China, which was ready to go to another level, and that Australia had much to learn from China in terms of building cities and infrastructure. Other members of the delegation observed their various personal links to China, including the sister state relationship between Sichuan Province and Victoria.
Mr Alexander observed the challenges facing both Australia and China in terms of managing the problems of urbanisation, including ‘megacity disease’, the retrofitting of infrastructure, planning and densification, and strategic decentralisation.
Mr Hou observed that these questions were quite forward looking and that they were matters that the government in Sichuan was thinking about. He acknowledged that they still had a lot of catching up to do. He highlighted the One Big Tree concept, with Chengdu as a megacity, but incorporating the development of small and medium cities. He noted that Chengdu was the central city in Sichuan, but that there were seven other cities which must be developed. He highlighted the importance of the road and rail connections with Chongqing and the Yangtze via the HSR and the expressway; and the development of air access through Chengdu’s second international airport, creating a regional comprehensive aviation hub for more than 50 million people. He noted that Sichuan had thirty airports. He identified the importance of developing aviation and combined multi-modal transportation. He observed that all these efforts were for the benefit of the people. He considered that more discussion with colleagues and closer relations with Australia were important, suggesting more exchanges and discussions with parliaments and delegations. He wished delegation members best wishes for the next election.
In response, Mr Alexander suggested that Mr Hou come to Australia. He reinforced the strong impressions made of Chengdu’s ongoing development, with the second airport, the metro system and HSR. He expressed admiration at China’s ability to make decisions, commence work and move forward in a positive way. One valuable lesson in particular was the ability of China to learn from its mistakes and move forward.
Mr Alexander also observed that the establishment of the Australian Consulate in Chengdu was strategically important, building on a foundation of strong and good relations. Mr Hou agreed.