Northeastern Heilongjiang province is taking full advantage of China's Belt and Road Initiative and its unique geographical position-with its northernmost bordering Russia, and the provincial capital Harbin featuring some Russian buildings and other cultural influences-to boost its business and economic ties with Russia, leading government officials and businessmen said.
Harbin-based Qinggonglin Pumps Co Ltd, Harbin Engineering University, and an institute of the Academy of Sciences of Russia, have set up a company to manufacture a new type of power generation equipment.
"The institute sent the list and experimental parameters for the equipment to us last Friday. When the core equipment is ready, we can start production," said Qinggonglin Pumps General Manager Piao Chenggong.
The company and institute signed a cooperation agreement in November during a trip organized by the Heilongjiang provincial government for about 100 companies-working in equipment manufacturing, 3D printing and other fields-to visit Russia.
Seventeen of them signed contracts with representatives from 227 of their Russian counterparts in Yekaterinburg and Moscow.
"In 2016, Heilongjiang province expanded its opening-up to the outside world with an emphasis on Russian cooperation," said Heilongjiang Governor Lu Hao in a provincial government report.
A new landmark 2.6 billion yuan ($379 million) cross-border rail bridge, linking Tongjiang in Heilongjiang province with Nizhneleninskoye in Russia's Jewish Autonomous Oblast, has begun construction, he said.
Last week Heilongjiang provincial officials said the construction of the cross-border rail bridge between China and Russia had moved a step closer to completion now that the project's funding gap had been covered.
Lu said the development marked the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries entering a new stage.
Additionally, the first modern highway bridge on the Heilongjiang River (Amur River), the boundary river between China and Russia, also started construction, he added.
According to plans, the two bridges will be in operation, respectively, in 2018 and 2019 and they are expected to expand economic and business ties between Heilongjiang and Russia.
"In the past, the cooperation was all about trade. Now it is entering a new stage with cooperation in various sectors including energy, logistics, high-tech, agriculture, infrastructure and culture," said Song Kui, head of the Heilongjiang Contemporary Sino-Russia Regional Economic Research Institute.
Statistics show that a total of nearly 9.5 million international parcels were posted to Russia from Heilongjiang in 2016. The cargo weighed 2,400 metric tons and was valued at nearly $200 million.
Heilongjiang also witnessed more frequent and in-depth cultural exchanges with Russia last year, when five joint research centers with the Saint-Petersburg State University were established in the province. A Sino-Russian art college, jointly set up by Harbin Normal University and Moscow State Academic Art Institute, opened its doors.