The two sides of the first highway bridge connecting China and Russia across the Heilongjiang River were joined together on 31 May.
Measuring 1,284 meters long, the bridge across the Heilongjiang River (known in Russia as the Amur River), stretches from Heihe, a border city in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, to the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk.
The bridge forms part of a 19.9-kilometre-long highway project costing US$358 million, funded by both Russia and China, that links the Jilin-Heilongjiang expressway in China and a highway in Blagoveshchensk. Construction of the bridge began in December 2016, and is expected to be completed in October.
Blagoveshchensk is also close to the point where the new Power of Siberia gas pipeline will run under the Amur River into China. The first deliveries of gas from Gazprom to China are scheduled for December.
Start-up operations are currently underway on the gas pipeline. The construction of the border-adjacent Atamanskaya compressor station, which will maintain the required pressure during gas deliveries to China, is nearing completion. A working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and Wang Yilin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), took place at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 7.
These projects are the latest symbols of the growing links between the Russian and Chinese economies.
President Xi Jinping arrived on June 5 for a state visit to Russia, his eighth since 2013 when he became Chinese president. After being greeted by President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, the two leaders then visited an exhibition of cars produced by Great Wall Motors' plant in Russia's Tula region.
President Xi also attended the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Prior to his arrival, Xi told Russian media that China is ready to work with Russia to foster stronger synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
In an interview with TASS Russian News Agency and Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, Xi said that China will work with Russia to foster stronger synergy between the two initiatives in the spirit of mutual support, advance negotiations on a Eurasian economic partnership agreement, and enhance the facilitation of regional trade and investment.
He took note of the statement signed by himself and President Putin in May 2015 on dovetailing the Silk Road Economic Belt with the Russia-led EAEU.
On the development and use of the Arctic shipping routes, the Chinese president said it will provide new opportunities, a new platform and new impetus for synergizing the BRI and the EAEU, and is also conducive to better connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Xi encouraged Chinese companies to take an active part and make practical contributions to the commercial operation of the Arctic shipping routes and local economic and social development.
On June 7, Russian shipping major Sovcomflot, along with compatriot gas producer Novatek and the Silk Road Fund, signed an agreement with China Cosco Shipping related to the transportation of hydrocarbons from Russia’s Arctic zone.
Under the deal, the parties will establish a long-term partnership providing for the joint development, financing and implementing year-round logistics arrangements for cargo shipping from the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation to the Asia-Pacific region
The companies will also organize transit cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route between Asia and Western Europe.
“The Agreement represents an important milestone in developing the transportation of LNG produced by our Arctic projects along the Northern Sea Route,” said Leonid Mikhelson, Novatek’s Chairman of the Management Board. It will facilitate the rapid transformation of the Northern Sea Route into a global and commercially effective transportation corridor between the Pacific and Atlantic basins, as well as in the implementation of the decision made by the leadership of the Russian Federation to increase Northern Sea Route annual cargo traffic to 80 million tons in 2024.
Trade volume between China and Russia exceeded US$100 billion in 2018, a record high, according to the Russian Ministry of Commerce.
In another sign of the growing importance of connectivity, a new container rail terminal is being built on the outskirts of Moscow.
In 2017, Russian state-owned railways RZD and Chinese Liaoning Port announced the construction of the largest container rail cargo terminal in Russia. Construction began in 2018. Total investment in the project is over US$300 million, with 51% coming from the Russian side, and 49% from the Chinese partner.
Operations will begin later this year. By 2022, investors expect the terminal to be fully completed, distributing containers. Russian Railways views Belyy Rast as a project that can be replicated elsewhere on the network.
When the Belyy Rast terminal reaches its full capacity, 600,000 tons of cargo will be processed annually, serving both European and Asian customers. It will help reduce to eight days the movement of cargo from China to Europe.
“This project of the logistics center Belyy Rast is in line with the needs of the Belt and Road Initiative and the strategic linkage of the Eurasian Economic Union. Currently, the Sino-Russian-European container trains are developing rapidly, and the Belyy Rast Logistics Center is adapted to the current logistics and trade market. The demand has good development prospects and benefit expectations,” general manager of the Terminal Logistics Center Ma Yunchi told Xinhua in an interview.