China and Russia Open Cross-Border Bridge as Ties Deepen

China and Russia recently opened a new cross-border bridge, hoping it will further boost trade. The opening comes as Moscow reels from sweeping sanctions imposed by the West over its actions in Ukraine.

The bridge links the Chinese city of Heihne and the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk across the Amur River. The bridge is just over a kilometer long and cost 19 billion rubles, the equivalent of $342 million.

Amid fanfare, including a fireworks display, freight trucks from both ends drove across the two-lane bridge that was decorated with flags of both countries. Russian authorities say the bridge will bring Beijing and Moscow closer together and boost trade. The countries announced a “no limits” partnership in February before Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine.

“In today’s divided world, the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe bridge between Russia and China carries a special symbolic meaning,” the Kremlin representative in the Russian Far East, Yuri Trutnev, said.

At the opening, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said China wants to deepen cooperation with Russia in all practical areas. Russia’s Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev echoed Chunhua, saying the bridge will help boost bilateral trade of more than 1 million tons of goods.

New bridge slashes journey time

The newly-opened bridge has been under construction since 2016 and was completed in May 2020. However, its opening was delayed by cross-border Covid-19 restrictions according to BTS-MOST, the company building the bridge on the Russian side.

BTS-MOST said the bridge would cut the travel distance for Chinese goods traveling the distance to western Russia by 1,500 kilometers, the equivalent of 930 miles. All vehicles crossing the bridge must pay a toll of 8,700 rubles, $150. The prices are expected to drop when toll fees begin to offset the cost of construction.

Russia expects trade with China to reach $200 billion by 2024 and commodity flows to China to continue to grow. China is a significant purchaser and consumer of agricultural and natural resources from Russia.

China has not condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and has criticized the West’s sanctions on Moscow. At the inauguration ceremony of the bridge, officials from both countries proclaimed it as evidence of a deepening of relations between Beijing and Moscow.

Previously bitter enemies during the Cold War, both countries have stepped up political and economic ties in recent years. The bridge is a visual representation of the link between the two countries. The toll bridge will be able to handle 68 other vegetables, 630 freight trucks, and 164 buses daily, according to the Moscow Times.

Shortly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to raise their mutual trade from $147 billion in 2021 to $250 billion by 2024. After the two nations normalized relations in the 1980s, trade between Moscow and Beijing has flourished.