Foreign and Military Affairs

Trade ties blossom as govt contacts increase

By Wang Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-15 07:19
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URUMQI, Xinjiang - The growth of Xinjiang Sanbao Industry Group, one of the biggest trade companies in northwestern China, has mirrored the development of China's relations with Central Asia over the past two decades.

Since its establishment in 1992, around the same time as China was establishing ties with the newly independent former Soviet republics of Central Asia, Xinjiang Sanbao has risen from a small cross-border barter trade firm to a conglomerate whose trade volume reached $871 million last year.

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The company not only out-performed thousands of small Chinese cross-border trade companies that emerged in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but also survived the ups and downs in the region.

The company's business now ranges from petrochemicals to biological products.

"The economies of China and Central Asia are quite complementary. Central Asia's economic development is much like that of China in the 1980s," said Kang Heping, chairman of Xinjiang Sanbao.

Competitively priced Chinese products and Chinese investment are in great demand in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan used to serve as raw material suppliers for the Soviet Union and relied heavily on Moscow for light industry products, daily necessities and agricultural products.

But with the breakup of the Soviet Union, supplies of these goods dried up and many in the region started doing business with neighboring China.

According to official figures, China's trade with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan reached $86.8 billion last year, a more than seven-fold increase over 2001.

This has given birth to many trade companies in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, such as Xinjiang Guorui Economic and Trading Co Ltd, Xinjiang Bayi Steel International Trade Co Ltd and Xinjiang Yema Economy & Trade Co Ltd.

Chinese companies target the needs of Central Asian customers and find capable Chinese suppliers to meet those needs.

"Doing business here requires speed because the environment changes every minute," said Chen Zhifeng, chairman of Xinjiang Yema, one of the biggest trade companies in Xinjiang.

"We will not ponder an idea for three months and then do it. We need to think while we are doing it," he added.

Chen said his company's business witnessed tremendous growth last year as China's ties with Central Asia got even stronger.

According to figures from the government of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, its trade volume with Central Asia reached $4.48 billion in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 65 percent over the same period last year. Trade with Kazakhstan reached $2.7 billion, up 60.3 percent year-on-year.

Mao Weihua and He Wei in Xinjiang contributed to this story.