A new trading facility in a Tibetan village on the border with Nepal has been given the go-ahead, as China seeks to expand economic ties with its Himalayan neighbour.
Construction work on the Lizi Port - which sits at 4,600 metres above sea level - has been completed and it passed an inspection by the commerce ministry on Tuesday, according to Chinese state media.
The inspection found that the facility meets government standards and is ready to start operations, the official China News Service reported.
It did not say when Lizi Port would open, but that it would "spur Tibet's opening to the outside world, improve connectivity between China and Nepal, deepen China-Nepal friendly exchanges and cooperation, and promote high-quality economic and social development in Tibet".
The facility has been built in the village of Lizi, in Yagra, Zhongba county in the Tibetan prefecture of Shigatse. It is some 935km from the Tibetan capital Lhasa, and 499km from Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.
Lizi sits on the Korala mountain pass and for centuries has been a market hub where Himalayan residents have traded grain, salt and goats.
A facility called Nechung has also been built 12km away on the Nepalese side of the border, in the district of Mustang. A road link to other parts of Nepal has already been completed.
The Lizi-Nechung route will be the fourth trading channel to open along the 1,400km China-Nepal border. In addition, there are plans for two more trading posts - Chentang-Kimathanka and Riwu-Olangchung Gola, according to a 2012 agreement between China and Nepal.
Construction of the Lizi facility began in 2017 and it has cost about 399 million yuan (US$54.7 million), according to the CNS report.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in October 2019, the two sides agreed to open the Lizi-Nechung trade route "at the earliest possible time". But the project was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, when the border was closed. The China-Nepal border only reopened five months ago, after freight transport resumed in December 2022.
China has announced that it will build what it calls a Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network with Nepal - involving railways and communication links - as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Nepal sits between China and India - the two Asian giants who compete for influence over the small Himalayan nation.
Source: South China Morning Post