A few weeks ago, I made a business trip to Xi’an to participate in a conference discussing the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative, with a special focus on the China-Europe freight trains that have helped power some of the newest projects on this revival of the ancient Silk Road routes. I ended up making news twice during the journey, and forged connections with leading academics and people in the media. Here’s a photo essay detailing everything from what we did and saw to even some of what we ate.
We first arrived at the Xinzhu station in Xi’an, a major inland port for China-Europe trains, and gathered for an opening ceremony, which took place right beside one of the trains set to travel to Hamburg, Germany. I’m standing in the front row before the stage, wearing a powder blue down jacket.
Then, after hearing a few other leaders speak, it was my turn to take the stage and deliver a speech in Mandarin Chinese for the opening ceremony.
This marked my first time to ever give a public speech in Mandarin Chinese!
Afterwards, we took a group photo. I stood in the front row, next to the former ambassador to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine, and a professor at one of China’s top universities.
We then had the opportunity to tour the expansive grounds at the China-Europe train station.
Next door, a “shopping festival” featured a number of goods shipped on the China-Europe trains, including this flour made from wheat grown in Kazakhstan.
That picture later made front-page news for a paper in Xi’an.
The following day, we visited Fucha town, which has developed an entire industry founded on a variety of locally produced brick tea, which is also shipped on the China-Europe freight trains.
We learned more about the local tea and tea culture at the museum.
That afternoon, we gathered for a conference to share ideas and perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative over five years, and I was one of the featured speakers, sharing stories from China Daily reporting.
My speech that afternoon turned into a news story.
Now we the trip focused on business, it wasn’t without its small pleasures, such as the dining opportunities we had in Xi’an, renowned as a distinctive culinary crossroads.
This flatbread with a vegetarian filling reminded me of an inside-out pizza.
And this deep-fried bread, the namesake of one of the restaurants we dined at (老磨油饼), had a delightfully light, fluffy texture and was irresistible with salted peppers and green onion.
The Xi’an trip will forever shine as one of my highlights of 2018. So grateful I had the opportunity to visit this brilliant area of China for work.