URUMQI, April 11 (Xinhua) -- At Horgos International Border Cooperation Center on the China-Kazakhstan border in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Bacr is a household name.
Bacr is Ni Jianhua's Russian name, given by his business partners from Kazakhstan. He has been in toy business since 2006 when he came to the land port from China's coastal Zhejiang Province.
"I never thought Horgos would develop into such a flourishing city in a dozen years," said Ni at his toy store.
Border business was weak between China and Kazakhstan and other central Asian countries when Ni reached Horgos.
"There were fewer customers and my business was very dull at the beginning," Ni said.
The Horgos International Border Cooperation Center, covering 5.28 square kilometers, started construction in 2006 and opened as a destination for cross-border shopping in April 2012.
It is the world's first cross-border free-trade zone and the biggest duty-free shopping center in western China. It allows entry of citizens from any country with valid passports or with exit and entry permits.
Many commercial tenants, including Ni, moved to the center for its sound facilities and preferential policies.
In the past five years, more than 4,000 tenants and 40 duty-free shops selling luxury brands have entered the center. It attracted a total of 5.43 million tourists in 2006 and 1 million in the first quarter of 2017. The purchasing volume of consumers from China and central Asian countries hits 5 million yuan (720,000 U.S. dollars) on average each day.
Ni has expanded the size of his store.
"My business is getting better as more people come here," Ni said. "The center is also undergoing expansion and a second-stage construction project will be completed in October."
To attract more tourists, the center launched a self-service customs clearance passage on March 12, allowing people to pass through customs in 10 seconds with the aid of face and fingerprint identification devices.
Horgos was once a busy passage used by traders traveling along the ancient Silk Road. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2014 injected new vitality into the land port.
In June 2014, China's State Council approved the setting up of Horgos city.
"I was not born in Horgos city but my daughter was," Ni said. "The city has well-equipped facilities such as kindergartens, schools and hospitals. We can live here without worries."