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New China-Europe dedicated cross-border e-commerce railway corridor launched in central China

2019-03-04 6 minute read China

China-Europe Express Train (Zhengzhou) first cross border e-commerce dedicated route CaiNiao / 中欧班列(郑州)首条跨境电商专线 “菜鸟号”

China-Belgium rail-line launch creates a competitive cross-border corridor between China’s logistics centre, Zhengzhou, and Belgium’s Liège; enhancing China’s global logistics connectivity across a network of European countries.

On 2 March 2019, a new China-Euro express train departed from Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan province, for Liège in Belgium. The service route is exclusively for cross-border e-commerce, making it the first of its kind.

This is a development on the heels of the strategic agreement signed between Alibaba Group and the Belgian government in September 2018. Liège was last year chosen to be Alibaba’s European hub for international services.

Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao, will lease a 220,000 square meter logistics port at Belgium’s Liège airport to launch an e-commerce trade hub. This is part of Alibaba’s deal to invest an initial 75 million euros ($85 million) in logistics infrastructure.


The first dedicated block train, also named “Cainiao” (“菜鸟号”), has departed Zhengzhou and is expected to arrive in Liège on March 11. While a direct express line between Zhengzhou and Liège launched in 2018, this newest cross-border dedicated route is expected to help solve problems related to delays in cargo traffic and logistics tracking; providing better last-mile customer experiences.

Zhengzhou, where ACOLINK’s bonded facilities are located, is China’s national strategic logistics hub. The trans-European rail network expansion in Liège is delivered by Cainiao’s partnership with operator: Zhengzhou International Hub Development and Construction Co, Ltd. (ZIH). According to ZIH, this is the first freight line in China to operate under the customs surveillance code: “9610” (also known as the customs supervision code) for cross-border e-commerce.

“9610” Customs Code

The “9610” code is used to separate the supervision procedure for cross-border e-commerce from the traditional trade.

Read more about the “9610” customs supervision code

The “9610” code makes customs clearance for China’s high-volume cross-border e-commerce market more effective by separating its supervision from traditional customs supervision. It allows e-commerce retailers to spread delivery of separate goods while collectively declaring all imported and exported goods; thereby improving efficiency and reducing customs declaration related costs.

It applies to transactions done via e-commerce platforms for domestic individual orders, and e-commerce companies and platforms that carry out e-commerce retail imports. This was introduced by China’s General Administration of Customs (GACC) in February 2014.

European Expansion

China is decisively accelerating international trade through cross-border e-commerce. Both by global logistics expansion and by providing favourable policies, it’s upgrading cross-border clearance services.

Steven Verhasselt, vice president commercial at Liège Airport told Air Cargo World that the Liège airport community is benefitting from and welcoming the service.

“We already have two trains per week between Liège and Zhengzhou and soon to be added to that will be two weekly scheduled services between Liège and Wuhan,” he said. “They are already developing this multimodal approach.”

In 2018, China’s retail sales exceed $1.53 trillion USD. In 2019, online retail sales are projected to account for 35.3% of the entire retail sales in China, with China’s e-commerce forecast to account for 63% of global sales transaction by 2022.

China-Europe freight trains made 6,363 round trips in 2018, a sharp increase of 73% from 2017. It connects 59 cities in China with 49 cities in 15 European countries to support the ever-evolving cross border trade.

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