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Exploring the remote realities of China's Belt and Road

Little enthusiasm for high-profile projects along the border with Russia

Automobiles, not gleaming high-speed trains, are the preferred mode of transport among locals in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang. (Photo by Ankur Shah and Vivek Pisharody)

INNER MONGOLIA, China -- On a warm August day in Manzhouli, on China's northeastern border with Russia, workers are unloading truckloads of Russian goods for storage in local warehouses. Later, the goods will be repackaged and reloaded onto Chinese trucks and trains for distribution throughout China.

The process is lengthy and inefficient. But it is also a mainstay of the border economy, which some locals worry is threatened by regional manifestations of China's sweeping Belt and Road Initiative on infrastructure. Others say that local BRI projects are more about shoring up diplomatic relations with Russia than benefiting the region.

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