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Economy, Transportation

Lianyungang, Qinhuangdao, Inland navigation, coastal shipping, Wuxi

The railroad is the most important mode of transportation in China, moving 39 percent of passenger traffic and 36 percent of freight traffic in 1995. Since 1949 the total length of the country’s railroads has more than doubled, reaching 60,000 km (37,300 mi) in 1999. The two major north-south routes (Guangzhou-Beijing and Shanghai-Beijing) connect with lines that extend into the northeast and southeast of China and into Mongolia and Russia. In 1995 a new Beijing-Kowloon railroad was completed, linking Beijing and Hong Kong. The major east-west line, from Lianyungang to Lanzhou, connects with a rail line to Urumqi in far northwestern China and to Kazakhstan in Central Asia. The new rail lines have provided a dense network in the heavily populated and economically important regions of northeastern, central, and southwestern China.

Road transport has become increasingly important in China. Before 1949, paved roads and highways only provided connections between the old coastal treaty ports (cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin that contained sections controlled by foreigners) and the surrounding countryside, but the road system now stretches well into the country’s interior. Roads connect Beijing to the capitals of all provinces and autonomous regions, as well as to major ports and railroad centers. The network also extends into rural areas, making most localities accessible by road. In 2000 China had a total length of 1,400,000 km (900,000 mi) of highways. Most paved roads were in good condition. Motorized public transportation is well-developed in urban centers. Bicycles are popular for traveling short distances.

Inland navigation on China's many rivers and canals accounts for a large proportion of the goods shipped within the country, and its potential for increased development is great. The largest inland waterway is the Yangtze River, which has major ports at Chongqing, Yichang, and Wuhan. Some 18,000 km (11,000 mi) of the Yangtze and its tributaries can be traveled by steamboats. China’s busiest inland waterway system, however, is the Grand Canal, which extends from Beijing to Hangzhou, near Shanghai. The southern portion of the canal is actually a network of many local canals and lakes. Such cities as Suzhou, Wuxi, and Changzhou are important inland ports in this region. In parts of rural China, peasants use irrigation and drainage canals as inland waterways.

China's long coastline and the proximity to the coast of some of the country’s most important industrial cities have long made coastal shipping an important mode of transportation. To accommodate and encourage the expansion of international trade, the government has invested in improving existing port facilities and constructing new ports. There are more than 20 major ports along China's coastline, including those at Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Guangzhou, Dalian, Ningbo, and Tianjin. China has a merchant fleet of 3,280 ships (2001) that visit ports around the world.

China’s largest international airport is at Beijing. The country’s other major international airports are at Shanghai and Guangzhou, and provincial capitals and a number of other major cities have airports that handle domestic flights. China's national airline is Air China. A number of regional airlines have been established, and some of them also operate on international routes.

Article key phrases:

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