Region will become transit hub, core zone of Silk Road Economic Belt
A new highway between Beijing and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region officially opened to traffic on Saturday after the last sections were finished, which experts said will benefit the region in realizing its importance as a key transit point on the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The 2,768 kilometer-highway, the G7, links six provinces and regions - Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Gansu and Xinjiang. It lops 1,300 kilometers off the previous route.
"The highway makes the distance between the central government and Xinjiang people shorter," Gao Jianlong, head of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Communications among regions will increase along with the highway, which will increase understanding of Xinjiang, Gao added.
"Offering multiple options for cargo transportation, the highway will benefit Xinjiang to realize its future position as a core zone and transportation hub of the Silk Road Economic Belt," Gao noted.
Xinjiang's main products of fruit, oil and cotton will benefit from the new highway.
It will also bring more vitality to local border cities such as Alashankou and Khorgas, on the frontier with Kazakhstan, which will boost central and western Asian countries, Gao added. The highway will become the most convenient way for transshipments through Khorgas to the port of Tianjin, linking the Silk Road on land to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
A high-speed railway line in Xinjiang also went into operation in 2014, linking the region with Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province.
The last three sections of the highway were put into operation on Saturday - the 930-kilometer section from Linhe in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to Baigeda in Gansu, the 134-kilometer section from Baigeda to Mingshui, Xinjiang and the 178-kilometer section from Mingshui to Hami, Xinjiang.
The Linhe-Baigeda section, which had to overcome harsh environmental problems, is the world's longest expressway to transit a desert, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The highway section crosses the Badain Jaran Desert, the third- largest desert in China.
Niu Tao, a staffer responsible for the Linhe-Baigeda project, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the team had to build special slopes to stop the road being covered by shifting sands.
Ding Yifan, a deputy director of the Institute of World Development at the State Council's Development Research Center, told the Global Times the highway is crucial infrastructure to further boost western China economically.
"The project will help reduce the geographical disadvantages that have long inhibited western China's development, and it puts the region at the forefront of economic development," Ding said.
It will be a core traffic route to support China's Western Development strategy, Ding added.
Together with the construction of the highway, a 935-kilometer power supply line and a 458-kilometer water pipeline were also built in Inner Mongolia.