Chongqing-Mandalay train link begins operations, track build stalled within Burma

Chongqing-Mandalay train link begins operations, track build stalled within Burma

The junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Burma jointly announced the inauguration of the Chongqing-Lincang-Mandalay train route, a bimodal transport link which aims to further connect Burma and China.

According to military publication, The Global New Light of Myanmar, the route will open a new “economic corridor” promoting bilateral trade between the two neighbors.

Ba Chuanjiang, a government official from Chongqing, a megacity in the Chinese province of Sichuan, told Chinese Communist Party international mouthpiece, the Global Times, that the new route is expected to strengthen Chongqing’s access to both ASEAN and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) members. 

The complete route, part of China’s heavily criticized Belt and Road Initiative, will have terminals connecting Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma, and will expand into central Eurasia. 

The 2,000km long Chongqing-Lincang-Mandalay stretch will take 15 days to navigate terminus-to-terminus, the Embassy of China in Myanmar announced on Tuesday. However, freight deliveries will not yet be able to cross the border as the line’s construction has been delayed within Burma. Currently, cargo sent en route is deposited at the Chinshwehaw border gate in Laukkaing district, Shan State, and carried by truck to Mandalay.

The line’s “launch” ceremony was held at Guoyuan Port in Chongqing on May 23 and authorities representing the Burmese military were in attendance. When complete, the route will be the first ever multimodal (road and rail) line linking the two countries.

The first freight train to use the line was reported to have carried around 60 containers of automobiles, electronic goods, solar equipment, and other products, according to the Chinese Embassy.

Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, visited Burma in 2020 and signed 33 trade deals with the NLD administration. An MoU agreement was signed agreeing to increased linkages between Mandalay Region and China’s Yunnan Province under the framework of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (one aspect of the BRI). 

Questions have arisen as to whether the Chinese government would continue to develop projects within Burma due to the pandemic and current political unrest.