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Chinese Train Reconnects French City of Lyon with ‘Mythical Silk Road’

PARIS, April 23, 2016 (Nouvelle Solidarité)—In March 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visit to France, insisted on visiting Lyon, to see the the Franco-Chinese Institute, founded in 1921. Being the only Chinese university outside the mainland, it is here that some of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, such as Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping started their political activities. Before Xi, other Chinese leaders went to Lyon: Deng Xiaoping in 1975, Jiang Zemin in 1999 and Hu Jintao in 2001.

Lyon, already a major trading city in the 16th century, and is again becoming a key hub for the New Silk Road.

On April 21, the first Chinese cargo train arrived in Lyon from Wuhan, a 11,300 km trip from Wuhan, nicknamed the "Chinese Chicago," as a transport hub. The train traversed Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, before arriving in Duisburg, Germany, Europe’s largest inland port. From there, the train went to Lyon to deliver 41 containers. The operation was closely planned and coordinated among Wuhan Asia-Europe Logistics (WAE); the French National Railway Company (SNCF); and Trans-Eurasia Logistics (TEL) GmbH, a joint venture between Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and Russian Railways (RZD).

For the Chinese, Lyon "is a key partner in industry and technology." Already 80 Chinese companies and over 30,000 Chinese live and work in the Lyon area. In Wuhan, 100 French firms have production sites; also in Wuhan, the French built a highly protected P4 laboratory to study deadly viruses, a copy of the renowned P4 lab in Lyon.

Respecting the train, the French chemical firm Solvay used the convoy to import silica, used to produce tires. Also imported are LED lamps, electronics and Decathlon brand textiles. It will return to Wuhan filled with French wine, cosmetics and food products. Of course, rail cargo transport is twice as fast as by ship and 80% cheaper than by plane.

But this is just the beginning.

"One-third of all French investment in China is in Wuhan. We hope that this rail link connecting both countries will promote trade exchanges,"

said a statement from the Mayor’s Office in Lyon. "This is an existential event in our relations," said Alain Galliano the vice-president the Métropole de Lyon, i.e., greater Lyon, who came to welcome the train, saying, "This is the symbolic reopening of the mythical Silk Road."

French Presidential candidate Jacques Cheminade, issued a statement, "France Should Not Miss the New Silk Road Train," expressing his support and satisfaction. For him, the train’s arrival should be the symbol of an overall economic shift away from financial speculation and back to investments in the real economy which allows humanity to blossom and prosper.

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