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Zhaoxing Dong Village
Women Harvesting Tea

For centuries, caravans loaded with tea would make their way across China's mountainous and picturesque Guizhou Province on what became known as the Tea Horse Road. The 1,864-mile trail wove through this southwestern region of the country as part of an established route that snaked all the way to India, and further along to the Middle East.

More than 90% of the land in this remote province is covered by high peaks. It has traditionally been extremely difficult to establish a transportation network that everyone can use, which significantly limited the province's economic development.

Qinglong Road with 24 Turns

Many people's general impression of Guizhou is its narrow corkscrew routes, such as the famed Stillwell Road, a treacherous, 2.5-mile highway with 24 daunting switchbacks that Chinese and American troops used to transport supplies during World War II.

But the story is different today. A host of giant infrastructure projects rolled out in recent years have reshaped the underdeveloped province in China's southwest, leading to breakneck economic growth. Guizhou has leveraged its geographic location to its full advantage. The province is becoming more strategically significant in China than ever before.

The Infrastructure Boom

Guizhou's location means that it's a crucial part of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative. The US$900 billion effort to recreate ancient trading routes between China and the rest of the world considers the landlocked province to be a pivotal passageway, just as it was centuries ago. Guizhou "became an important passage between China and the world more than 2,000 years ago," China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, during a recent showcase of the region before diplomats from 120 countries.

As such, infrastructure projects throughout Guizhou have blossomed. More than US$100 billion has been invested in transportation and financing in the past five years, nearly three times more than their investment from 1978 to 2012. This has resulted in the initiation of 69 highway projects, which will result in more than 3,542 miles of new roads


69 highway projects
3,542mi new roads


Guidu (Guiyang-Duyun) highway

The path has a special position in China’s opening up and history.

– Wang Yi , China’s Foreign Minister
1,087 miles of
high-speed railways
to be built over the
next five years

The ambitions for the province are even greater. "Guizhou is to build more than 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) of highways by 2022, covering more than 80% of the villages," said Gao Weidong, head of the province's transportation department.

Construction of waterways, airports and train lines is also underway. Thirty-five major waterway projects have been initiated, with 13 already coming to fruition. Guizhou has built 11 airports over the last three years, and six more will be completed by 2020, further connecting Guizhou to cities along the 'Belt and Road' routes. Guizhou will also become a high-speed rail hub. An estimated 1,087 miles of high-speed railways are going to be built over the next five years. The goal is to form 2-8 hour high-speed rail transportation links between Guiyang (Guizhou's capital city) and neighboring provincial capitals and regions, including the Pan-Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta, and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei. Such efforts will surely speed up the movement of information, capital, goods, services and people.

A ‘World Museum of Bridges’

Living in a province covered with numerous valleys, rivers and mountains, Guizhou people have historically developed a fantastic talent for building bridges. The wood-covered corridor bridge, Wind and Rain Bridge, for instance, is a scenic charm today. Yet what has earned Guizhou the reputation as "the World Museum of Bridges" is a parade of dazzling, record-breaking bridges erected across the province in recent years.

Yachihe Bridge

Zhaoxing Dong Village
Hezhang Bridge

Of the 100 world's highest bridges, more than 40 are in Guizhou. The densely-built bridges not just connect rocky gorges, but people and businesses in southwest China. In December 2016, Beipanjiang Bridge - the world's highest bridge that sits 1,854 feet above the river below - gained worldwide attention upon completion. "The new bridge in Guizhou is just a tiny piece of a grand vision," reported The Washington Post.

Guizhou also has the world's longest steel-truss, cable-stayed bridge, Yachihe Bridge. Hezhang Bridge, with an epic 640-foot-tall pier, is another one for the record books.

Guiyang Longdongbao International Airport

New infrastructure, better life

Lacking a major coastline or a border with another country, Guizhou struggled economically for decades due to its relative isolation in relation to the rest of China. The new transportation options have enabled Guizhou to see immediate benefits, as its imports and exports for 2017 alone were worth more than US$8.7 billion. The growth rate ranked second among all of the country's provinces.

Big data
Guiyang-Guangzhou High Speed Railway

6.7 million
people have been lifted out of poverty

The improved infrastructure has had a major positive effect on Guizhou's citizens, who had long been struggling with a lack of drinkable water and convenient transport services in this mountainous province. Rapid economic growth has lifted 6.7 million people out of poverty over the past five years, the highest figure of any province in the entire country. Where the poverty rate was once more than a quarter of the population, today it is less than 8 percent.

Longkeng Overpass

Guizhou needs to enrich its ecotourism and deepen its cultural implications, turning tourism into a big business.”

– Xi Jinping, China’s President
Guizhou Expressway
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST)

Economic transformation

Blessed by its lush natural landscape and unique ethnic culture, Guizhou holds enormous tourism resources. When he was visiting Guizhou, China's President Xi Jinping said, "Guizhou, 'the Province of Parks,' needs to enrich its ecotourism and deepen its cultural implications, turning tourism into a big business."

Guizhou has gone through economic transformation and upgrading through massive infrastructure investments, with tourism gradually becoming a pillar of the local economy. In 2017, Guizhou attracted more than 744 million tourists, who contributed more than US$110 billion to the local economy. Both the number of tourists and tourism income rose more than 40% from the 2016 figures. Thanks to the tourism boom, more than 500,000 locals risen out of poverty.

Compared to the tourism takeoff, what's more surprising is that big data has become the landlocked province's new business card to present to the world due to infrastructure improvement, which has helped draw high-tech investments from outside. Home to China's first big data pilot zone, Guizhou has attracted thousands of big data companies, including multinationals such as Apple, Qualcomm, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle. From 2013 to 2017, the business income of Guizhou's big data-led electronic information and manufacturing industry grew 28.5% annually, while the industry's contribution to local GDP jumped 62% each year. In 2017, the industry's contribution to local GDP surged 86% from the previous year, and its contribution to industrial growth exceeded 15%. Electronic information and manufacturing has become the province's second fastest-growing industry sector.

Jiangjunshan Reservoir

Linking rivers and seas

Guizhou is set to become the hub of land transportation in southwestern China in the next few years, laying a foundation for economic growth in years to come.

The inland province's GDP is projected to exceed US$317 billion in 2022, with an average 10% annual increase over the next five years. And all of its rural population are expected to be lifted out of poverty by then. Guizhou's growing infrastructure is enabling it to approach the goal one road and railway at a time.

By then, Guizhou will not be the same landlocked province on the Tea Horse Road anymore - it will be linked to rivers and seas through its modernized, powerful infrastructure.

GDP is projected
to exceed

in 2022

The Big Data Valley
of China

Guizhou has made multiple innovations in the technology space, and the province is now the location of China’s first big data pilot zone. Five years ago, there were only a few big data companies in Guizhou; now, there are thousands. What happened, and how did these changes take place in Guizhou?

read more


Blessed by its magnificent undulating landscape and rich ethnic culture, Guizhou is transforming into an ecologically-focused civilization. Discover how China's most biologically-diverse province is putting sustainable practices in action to preserve its ecology, while improving the wellbeing of its population.

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