HOHHOT, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The 27th China-Europe freight train passed through Manzhouli on the Russian border already this month, this one carrying commodities from southeast China's coastal city of Xiamen. Like Xiamen, more than 20 Chinese cities now run trains to Europe.
Manzhouli in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region saw its first container train in September 2013, heading from east China's Suzhou to Poland. In terms of its cargo throughput, Manzhouli is now China's top dog.
Last year, 1,036 freight trains -- 774 outbound and 262 inbound -- went through Manzhouli, carrying goods worth 3.6 billion U.S. dollars, close to double the year before.
So far this year, 429 cargo trains have carried 1.6 billion dollars of goods in and out of China via the port.
"We have round-the-clock clearance for goods trains. The faster we clear the cargo, the faster the trains can be on their way," said Xu Xuemeng, a logistics monitoring official with Manzhouli Customs.
Manzhouli Customs staff members work closely with their Russian counterparts so that cross-border freight trains run smoothly and efficiently.
With a population of 300,000, Manzhouli is an important hub on the Eurasian land passageways and the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor. It was listed one of the premier opening-up border cities in 1992 and made a key experimental area in 2012.
It is here, and cities like Manzhouli, where the full force of the Belt and Road's power is being most felt.
"We are actively integrating our development plans with the Belt and Road. We are key to the northward opening-up of Inner Mongolia," said Xu Ailian, mayor of Manzhouli.
"The China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and practical cooperation with the border areas of Mongolia and Russia are key to our success," she said.
In December,a free trade area was put into operation in Manzhouli, the first in the autonomous region, and has already attracted more than 50 companies. Senkai Trade Company began production last year. The company processes pine nuts from Mongolia and Russia and exports 70 percent of its products to Europe and the United States.
"The preferential policies of the bonded area allow us to produce high-end products," said Meng Fanyou, chairman of the firm.
Sun Yulong, another local entrepreneur, attributes the founding of his Russian food company in Manzhouli in late 2015 to broad cooperation under the Belt and Road. A Russian partner provides technical staff to Sun's plant and the bread and sausages produced taste of pure Russian authenticity.
"The Belt and Road means business. I'm already planning a second factory in the free trade area," said Sun.
A tax-free trade center in the zone in Manzhouli was inaugurated last year and more than 50 Russian merchants now call it home.
"Coordinated development of the free trade area, the border trade area and other zones is good for everyone. We will speed up our efforts in China-Russia tourism and border free trade zones," said Mayor Xu.