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Wartime lifeline transformed into cross-border trade corridor

© Provided by Xinhua

KUNMING, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- It is getting dark, but the Houqiao land port in Tengchong City in southwest China's Yunnan Province remains busy as a seemingly endless flow of vehicles pass on a road between China and Myanmar.↳

The road, previously named after former U.S. General Joseph Stilwell, now facilitates the transport of fresh fruits like bananas and watermelons from Myanmar to China, and groceries and construction materials in the opposite direction.↳

"This is a land passage between China and Myanmar that facilitates our trade," said Li Jianping, who works at the port's management office.↳

While serving in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II, Stilwell provided support for the Chinese people in their resistance against Japanese aggression.↳

Linking the northeastern Indian town of Ledo and Yunnan's provincial capital of Kunming via Tengchong, the 1,726-kilometer road was once dubbed a "lifeline" during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. More than 50,000 tonnes of supplies were transported along the road to battlefields in China.↳

Although some sections of the road were damaged during the war, cross-border exchanges and trade never stopped.↳

In 2004, China funded upgrades to the road between Tengchong and Myitkyina in Myanmar, reducing the travel time on the 200-kilometer section from about eight hours to just three.↳

In 2020, an expressway between Tengchong and Houqiao opened to traffic, marking the completion of the high-speed road between Yunnan's capital of Kunming and Houqiao Port.↳

In the same year, the construction of the Stilwell Road Museum was completed, with the building housing more than 5,000 WWII artifacts, including Dodge trucks, Willys jeeps and road construction tools.↳

© Provided by Xinhua

At the same time, trade between China and its bordering countries continued to grow.↳

In 2013, China and India proposed the construction of a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which, with a market of more than 3 billion people, is believed to boost the integrated development of the economic plates of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia.↳

Deng Zhongjie, who works at the logistics company RUIHEJC, has been working in cross-border transportation and trade between China and Myanmar for more than seven years.↳

"The Stilwell Road is still an important route for Yunnan's opening-up, which has also promoted the development of the planting industry in Myanmar," he told Xinhua, noting that the road could help integrate the production and resource advantages of countries such as China, Myanmar and India, thus aiding development along the route.↳

In the first five months of this year, the number of passengers crossing the border through ports in Tengchong rose 302.4 percent from last year, the freight volume increased 148 percent, and total imports and exports grew nearly 400 percent.↳

"While continuing to upgrade the Stilwell Road, we could boost its extention to form a land route with more openness and vitality," said Fan Yujin, an associate researcher at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.