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MERICS China Mapping

In a vast country such as China, the transport of goods poses a major challenge. For this reason, infrastructure development has traditionally been a top priority of the Chinese government. In recent years, investments in road and rail networks as well as ports and airports have been promoted by the government in its fight against the country’s economic slowdown.

China’s rail network plays a particularly prominent role with regard to the country’s domestic freight traffic. Coal is by far the most important good transported by railway. As far as the transport of goods across China’s borders is concerned, rail traffic so far only plays a miniscule role. However, there are first signs indicating that this might change due to the growing economic importance of China’s inner provinces that are far away from China’s main cargo ports. Since 2011, there has thus been a direct rail connection between Duisburg in Germany and Chongqing in China’s Southwest that allows for the shipping of electronic items.

China’s rise to the world’s leading trading power has been mirrored in the development of its container seaports. In 2012 seven Chinese ports were among the world’s top ten container ports. With a turnover of 33 million containers, Shanghai ranked first. By comparison, Hamburg ranked 14 with a turnover of only 9 million containers. However, if China’s seaports are not ranked by container turnover, but by cargo tonnage, a different picture emerges: due to its turnover of bulk cargo, Ningbo-Zhoushan in Zhejiang province then ranks first.

Also in the area of air cargo transportation, China has come to play a leading role. In 2011 Hong Kong International Airport was the world’s biggest cargo airport by cargo tonnage, followed by Shanghai as the number 3. However, due to the great costs of air cargo transportation, its share in China’s total cargo traffic remains limited.


World Shipping Council, Top 50 World Container Ports

Airports Council International, Cargo Traffic 2011, 08.07.2013

National Railway Administration of the People’s Republic of China, 2013 nian tiedao tongji gongbao

Die Welt, Chinas Präsident kommt für einen Zug nach Duisburg, 28.03.2014

  • Stiftung Mercator