The first rail freight service from the UK to China departed April 10, carrying 30 containers of British-produced goods from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, along a 7,500-mile journey to Yiwu, China. Hailed as a victory for an independent Britain, the voyage instead arguably represents a shift in the balance of world economic power, from East to West.
Cheaper than air and faster than sea, along the way, the consignment will pass through the Channel Tunnel into France and on to Belgium, Germany,Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, before finally reaching China April 27. The cargo is said to contain a number of items, including whisky, soft drinks, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and baby products.
However, while the shipment was hailed by UK International Trade Minister Greg Hands as a “boost” for “global Britain,” symptomatic of “the huge global demand” for the country’s goods, the journey is in fact not a testament to the UK’s enduring economic and political relevance in the 21st century, but shifting geopolitical tectonics, and China’s inexorable rise to superpower.