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Development of Digital Silk Road picks up speed in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region

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Visitors buy Indonesian products at the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. (Photo by Yu Xiangquan/People's Daily Online)
Visitors buy Indonesian products at the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. (Photo by Yu Xiangquan/People's Daily Online)

By Wang Hanchao, Pang Geping, 

As the peak season of durian sales approaches, durians freshly harvested in the morning in Vietnam and Thailand are swiftly making their way to store shelves in major Chinese cities within just three to five days.

How are they reaching China so fast?

The answer could be found at the Youyi Port in Pingxiang, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where trucks fully loaded with imported fruits are always seen lining up for customs clearance.

“The hotter it gets, the less time the fruits can wait,” said Cai Zhenyu, general manager of an international logistics based in Guangxi, who has been engaged in the food import business for over 10 years. 

“A delay means a drop in fruits’ price, and if the delay is too long, the entire truckload becomes worthless,” Cai explained.

According to him, the import process involved inspections, customs declarations, weighing, and vehicle transfers, which took five to six hours at best, or even two to three days sometimes, leaving the cargo owners anxious.

Thanks to the development of the Digital Silk Road and the continuously optimized intelligent customs clearance system, importers don’t have to wait for their bills of entry to be stamped today, as truck drivers can pass through checkpoints with just a face scan or fingerprint verification. 

“In cases where no inspection is required, it takes only about 10 minutes for truck drivers to leave the customs supervision area from entry,” Cai noted, adding that each step of the customs clearance process can be shown in real time on a mobile application.

Building the China-ASEAN Information Harbor is an important measure to promote Belt and Road cooperation and to strengthen connectivity between China and ASEAN countries. It aims to create an international communication passageway, a hub for big data resource application and services, a demonstration area for the application of new-generation information technology, a cluster for open cooperation in digital economy, and a center for cultural and people-to-people exchanges catered to ASEAN countries.

“We are striving to play a pivotal role in enhancing the development and application of information technologies and building the Digital Silk Road,” said Wang Yongchao, head of the Commission for Industry and Information Technology of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Currently, China and Vietnam are collaborating on the expansion of the Youyi Port, with plans to introduce autonomous driving in the Chinese section of the cargo passage by the end of this year, thus providing contactless, unattended, and intelligent customs clearance services 24/7. 

On the big screens in the exhibition hall on the first floor of the office building of China-ASEAN Information Harbor Co., Ltd. in Nanning, capital of Guangxi, there are various data and charts showcasing the achievements of information connectivity.

According to an executive of the company, in recent years, the company has built multiple digital platforms and even replicated China’s successful shared electric bike business in overseas trials.

The China-ASEAN Information Harbor has set up a multi-path system centered around Nanning, while Guangxi is accelerating the construction of an administration of international communication accesses. Over the past five years, Guangxi’s total foreign trade with ASEAN has grown at an average annual rate of 10.5 percent. In the first quarter of this year, the autonomous region’s imports and exports with ASEAN hit 90.12 billion yuan ($12.68 billion), an increase of 33.3 percent year-on-year.

“China and ASEAN have been each other’s largest trading partners for four consecutive years. Digital connectivity not only facilitates trade but also further enhances mutual understanding between peoples,” said an official with the Big Data Development Bureau of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

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