China activates exports via Russian railways

Sea freight to Europe is getting longer and more expensive, so China is starting to switch to trains going through Russia.

The process is going slowly but surely. For example, in 2020, the volume of railway traffic through Russia increased by 50%. And if you compare with 2016, then as much as 7 times.

This is due to the fact that, thanks to the rapid recovery of the Chinese economy after the coronavirus pandemic, China’s trade with other countries began to exceed the possibilities provided by sea transport. This is especially true for shipping.

First of all, this concerns containers, which are simply not enough.

In January-February 2021, 2,000 trains left China for Europe, which is twice more than a year earlier in the same period.

Why is China not happy with shipping?


First, because they take a very long time (several weeks). And worst of all, it’s impossible to predict the exact time of the ship’s arrival.

Many clients from Europe complain about numerous delays and threaten to start cooperating with other exporters. For example, this applies to fitness products (simulators).

Secondly, a sharp rise in prices for sea transportation services. In particular, due to the very shortage of containers.

And finally, the situation with the world famous ship Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week and caused damage to world trade up to $ 400 million per hour, also did not add optimism.

A huge number of ships, including oil tankers, were held hostage by this incident. It is assumed that it will «go around» for a long time.

After all, many of the goods that were supposed to reach the ports of destination last weekend are still sailing to who knows where.


At the same time, China is still a long way from fully placing its exports «on Russian rails.»

On 2 thousand trains that left China in the first two months of this year, up to 210 thousand containers went on the road.

However, over 2 million containers were transported by sea during the same period. Therefore, railway transportation still accounts for no more than 10% of the total volume of Chinese exports.

But there is certainly room for growth.