KHORGOS, Kazakhstan -- In late June, workers were busy transhipping freight from the Xinjiang region in northwest China at a Kazakhstan national railway station in the border town of Khorgos. Three cranes were operating nonstop, moving containers onto Kazakh freight cars. A buffer stop on a track bore a Chinese national flag, as if to emphasize Kazakhstan's close ties with its big neighbor to the southeast.
In fluent Chinese, a Kazakh railway worker with chiseled features who appeared to be in his 30s explained that the cargoes had arrived from Lianyungang in China Jiangsu Province, and were sent onward to Uzbekistan in the southwest. Some trains took them northward to Europe, he said. The amount of imported cargo had more than doubled in 2017 from a year earlier to the equivalent of 94,000 20-foot containers. Chinese is widely spoken in the free trade zone near the station.