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China’s Digital Port Transformation for Cross-Border Success

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China’s General Administration of Customs, in collaboration with relevant departments, embarked on a five-month mission to boost cross-border trade facilitation across 12 provinces and 17 cities across the country. This strategic endeavour marks a pivotal step in optimising the national port business environment and aligns with the broader goal of creating a market-oriented, legally sound, and internationally renowned port business landscape.

The results achieved thus far in this special action are substantial, reflecting a multi-faceted approach to enhance trade facilitation. Dang Xiaohong, Deputy Director of the National Port Management Office of the General Administration of Customs, highlighted five key areas where progress has been made:

  • Digital Transformation of Ports: The focus on building “smart ports” and promoting digital transformation is a central theme. Digitisation has streamlined port operations, making them more efficient and responsive to the demands of the modern global economy.
  • Supporting Foreign Trade Upgrades: Cross-border trade facilitation initiatives support the upgrading of foreign trade industries. This, in turn, promotes the healthy and sustainable development of new formats in international trade.
  • Logistics Chain Optimisation: Efforts have been directed at improving the safety and smoothness of cross-border customs clearance logistics chains. These enhancements contribute to the development of domestic and international “dual cycles,” facilitating trade flow.
  • Streamlining Compliance Fees: The drive to clean up and standardise the compliance fees associated with import and export links aims to reduce the financial burden on enterprises while simultaneously increasing operational efficiency.
  • Enhancing Enterprise Satisfaction: Multiple measures have been taken to enhance the satisfaction and sense of gain among enterprises involved in cross-border trade. This includes initiatives like “direct pick-up at the side of the ship” for eligible imported goods.

One notable success has been the exploration of the “direct pick-up” mode of imported goods at airport ports, notably in Beijing and other regions. This innovation has demonstrated significant progress in improving the efficiency of trade operations.

Tianjin Port’s implementation of an intelligent supervision system for the simultaneous transportation of domestic and foreign trade goods exemplifies the integration of smart technology into traditional logistics operations. This has resulted in a substantial increase in throughput, showcasing the benefits of digital transformation.

Chongqing’s adoption of special railway transport vehicles for vehicle transportation, which significantly outperforms traditional containers in terms of transport volume and cost savings, has set an industry benchmark. This initiative has been widely embraced in 54 cities across 23 countries along the SCO and the “Belt and Road.”

The impact of these cross-border trade facilitation efforts is particularly evident in the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta regions. Jiangsu, a major manufacturing and foreign trade province, has seen substantial growth in foreign trade throughput and container volume, driven by the optimisation of customs clearance procedures and digital transformation.

Jiang Xin, Deputy Director of the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Commerce, emphasised the importance of port cooperation in the Yangtze River Delta, highlighting the success of projects such as the “one-stop + one-click” logistics information platform, facilitating co-port operations with Shanghai Port.

In the Pearl River Delta, customs authorities have strengthened cooperation with large port groups, creating an integrated port ecosystem. This has resulted in a “two ports as one port” and “one port, multiple districts” pattern, optimising the transfer of goods between port groups and enhancing the overall efficiency of the Greater Bay Area’s port system.

The promotion of transparency in port fee catalogue lists, market supervision, and the elimination of non-essential charges outside the list further contributes to a favourable business environment for enterprises.

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