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China's Yunnan eyes deeper trade links with SE Asia with overland transportation

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KUNMING, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- For Li Qiang, chairman of the Linrui Wood Products Company in southwestern China's Yunnan Province, Yunnan's strategy of opening-up to its neighbors in southeast Asia means larger profits for his company.

"If the highways are built in accordance with province's development strategy, my doors will no longer have to travel to Shanghai before being shipped overseas," said Li earlier this month as he stroked one of his doors outside his office in Tengchong County.

Li has been exporting wood doors for five years, sending one to two containers every month. Each container holds 800 wooden doors. But most have to travel to far away Shanghai and Guangzhou before they can be exported.

"The transportation fees can be cut by half if the products are exported through Myanmar, which neighbors Tengchong County, and then to India and across the Indian Ocean," Li said.

Yunnan is implementing a ten-year development strategy dubbed the "Bridgehead Strategy" amid a national effort to develop China's relatively-backward western regions.

Li's wishes may come true in the near future.

Xiong Qinghua, head of the Yunnan Provincial Department of Commerce, said this year is the first year of the province's "Bridgehead Strategy," which will develop Yunnan role as a connector between China and southeast Asia.

Yunnan neighbors Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

"The strategy is a chance for Yunnan to accelerate its development," Xiong said.

The core of the "Bridgehead Strategy" is building international transportation routes and the establishment of foreign trade production bases, said Qi Huan, a researcher with the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, adding that the promotion of the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) free trade zone is also important.

Since the 1990s, Yunnan has been building an international transport route from Yunnan to Myanmar and then on to the Indian Ocean.

The new route is expected to cut transportation costs. Previously, most products had to be transported to coastal areas in southeast China before being loaded onto ships that would sail the Straits of Malacca.

Yunnan has been actively taking part in the construction of the free trade zone between China and the ASEAN.

The ASEAN is a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeastern Asia.

The ASEAN groups Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Yunnan has 12 civil airports in use and it ranks fourth in air passenger volume across China.

A new airport in Kunming, capital of Yunnan, is under construction and is hoped to become a hub to connect China with southeast Asia and south Asia.

Yunnan's exports and imports leaped from about 2 billion U.S. dollars in 2004 to 8.02 billion U.S. dollars in 2009.

Qin Guangrong, governor of Yunnan Province, said Yunnan will work to become two things: a base to for industries being transferred from eastern Chinese regions and a base to produce exports for southeast Asia.

"Yunnan can serve as a bridge to connect three large markets - China, southeast Asia and south Asia. The strategy will promote cooperation between China and the regions near the Indian Ocean," Qin added.

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