By Guan Kejiang, People's Daily
Saudi Arabia is the largest trading partner of China in the Middle East. Over the recent years, the two countries have witnessed increasingly frequent economic and trade exchanges as China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 achieved greater synergy. More and more people in Saudi Arabia are purchasing Chinese commodities on e-commerce platforms.
People's Daily recently joined logistics personnel in Saudi Arabia and recorded how express delivery parcels were transported from distribution centers in China to Saudi Arabia.
In front of an express delivery transfer center in the southern part of Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, trucks were seen arriving and leaving frequently. It is the first stop of parcels received by the Saudi Arabia branch of J&T Express, a Chinese express company, after customs clearance. Parcels would then be sent from this facility to distribution centers across the country and delivered by couriers.
Sun Jiankai, who's in charge of the operation of the transfer center, told People's Daily that the 10,000-square meter facility can handle 200,000 parcels on a daily basis and is one of the largest and most automated logistics centers in the Middle East.
It was the peak season of online shopping. Every day, the transfer center handled about 60,000 parcels. Half of them were from China and the other half domestic.
At 17:30, People's Daily journalist and an employee of the transfer center randomly selected a parcel from a pile to be shipped to Saudi Arabia's Al Qassim Province, and followed it to record how the parcel was delivered after getting consent from the receiver.
According to the shipping label, the parcel was an electronic product, and its destination was 40 kilometers away from Buraidah, capital of Al Qassim Province and 500 kilometers away from Riyadh.
It is learned that the Saudi Arabia branch of J&T Express has established a delivery network that covers the entire country since it was found in January 2022.
Sean Xiao, CEO of J&T Express Middle East, noted that the company has decided to settle in the Middle East and provide stable and quality services for local customers.
"Chinese enterprises will invest $2 billion in the Middle East and North Africa together with their local partners in the next 10 years, to build the most advanced and largest intelligent logistics park in the region," the CEO noted.
At 0:30 the next day, parcels arriving at the transfer center were all sorted and then carried to their destinations by trucks along the wide and flat express way linking Riyadh and Buraidah.
Mohammad, driver of the truck carrying the selected electronic product, told People's Daily that Chinese commodities were quite popular among consumers in Saudi Arabia.
In Saudi Arabia, there are two prominent challenges faced by the courier industry. One of them is the wide distribution of desert and incomplete address information of receivers. To solve the problem, Chinese express delivery companies designed a three-part shipping barcode, with each part designating one specific area. Finally, couriers would contact the receivers and confirm address information.
The other challenge is the low penetration rate of electronic payment. To accelerate digital transformation of the economy, countries in the Middle East have issued policies to encourage digital payments over the recent years, and many e-commerce platforms have also launched incentive measures for users that pay with e-wallets.
Mohammad told People's Daily that more and more of his friends have started using electronic payments under the influence of Chinese express delivery companies and e-commerce platforms, adding that a change is happening to their consumption and payment habits.
At around 8:00, Mohammad's truck arrived at a parcel distribution center of J&T Express in Buraidah, and parcels were soon unloaded and scanned by workers.
"I've been working here for eight months. The work efficiency of the Chinese logistics company is laudable," said Abdulaziz Muhammad Almuhanna, who's in charge of customer services at the distribution center.
He told People's Daily that Saudi Arabia hopes to make its economy diversified, and the BRI has brought opportunities.
More than four hours later, the parcels unloaded from Mohammad's truck were delivered by couriers. The electronic product was received by a young man named Ali Alseqaihi in Unayzah, which sits in the south of Buraidah. The young man signed his name in the app on the mobile phone of the courier and told People's Daily that he was a big fan of Chinese commodities.
"Look, this is a cooling pad I bought from a shop in Shenzhen, which is the best on the market," he said while tearing off the package of the product.
The man invited People's Daily journalist to his home. Many of the home appliances in his house were manufactured by Chinese brands. Ali always follows Chinese news and likes Chinese culture. He said that connected by the ancient Silk Road, Saudi Arabia and China enjoy a long history of friendship.
"Today, the two countries are engaged in close economic and trade cooperation, and China's economy is developing rapidly, which has benefited the two peoples," he told People's Daily.