In-Depth

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal

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In Battle With U.S. for Global Sway, China Showers Money on Europe’s Neglected Areas
In Battle With U.S. for Global Sway, China Showers Money on Europe’s Neglected Areas
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April 13, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘The number of freight trains running between China and Europe topped 12,400 last year, 50% higher than in 2019 and seven times that of 2016, according to Chinese authorities.’
‘Demand for trains has been so high that freight companies have introduced a lottery system to allocate space, according to Chinese state media.’

‘Increasingly, Chinese goods are arriving in Europe through a new trade corridor consisting of railroads, airport hubs and ports built with Chinese support, often as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the giant global infrastructure effort aimed at binding China more closely to the rest of the world.’

  • ‘By greasing the wheels of China-Europe trade, those investments have lifted long-neglected, rust-belt cities in places like Duisburg, Germany, and Liege, Belgium.’

‘The number of freight trains running between China and Europe topped 12,400 last year, 50% higher than in 2019 and seven times that of 2016, according to Chinese authorities.’

  • ‘Demand for trains has been so high that freight companies have introduced a lottery system to allocate space, according to Chinese state media.’

‘In Duisburg, a west German steel town that handles more than a third of Europe-China rail freight traffic, trade with China rose 70% last year.’

  • ‘The rail line’s speed compared with the sea route offers a valuable alternative for producers of perishable or time-sensitive, high-value goods like electronics.’
  • ‘A new rail terminal there part-built by China’s Cosco Shipping Holdings Co. will help expand China trade a further 40% to 100 trains a week.’

‘ “We are currently transporting as much as possible—as much as our tracks allow,” said a spokesman for German rail company Deutsche Bahn AG, which operates trains between 17 European countries and China via Poland, Belarus and Kazakhstan.’

  • ‘Some studies suggest that several hundred thousand trains a year could be plying the Europe-China rail route by the 2030s, he said.’
  • ‘The rail route was recently boosted further by the blockage of the Suez Canal.’

‘Chinese shipping groups own terminals or share ownership in around a dozen European ports including Antwerp, Rotterdam, Valencia and Marseille.’

  • ‘Chinese investment in the port of Piraeus, near Athens, has helped transform Greece’s primary port over the past decade from an economic backwater into Europe’s fourth-busiest.’
  • ‘Ten trains a week ply a new rail route that connects Piraeus’s port with Eastern European markets including the Czech Republic, transporting around 100,000 containers a year.’

‘Cosco, which controls the port, has proposed building a fourth container terminal that could allow trade volumes to double again, potentially putting Piraeus on a par with giant European ports such as Hamburg.’

  • ‘Greece hasn’t yet approved Cosco’s expansion plans. Greek officials have complained the Chinese company has received most of the benefits.’
  • ‘But after Cosco said last month that it would build a children’s playground for local residents, the mayor of Piraeus, Ioannis Moralis, expressed confidence the port would soon be better integrated with the city.’
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