From a small border town with only two main streets and dozens of poor villages in the early 1980s to a city with an annual GDP surpassing 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion) in 2018, the evolution of Ruili City in Yunnan Province in southwest China is attributed mainly to the favorable opening-up policy issued by the Central Government for its development.
Ruili was listed as a pilot area for border trade, especially to develop trade with Myanmar, in the early days of China's reform and opening up in the 1980s, paving the way for its prosperity.
Today, it has been transformed into the largest land trading port between China and Myanmar. According to official data, in 2018 the total volume of export and import between China and Myanmar via Ruili reached 71.7 billion yuan ($10.4 billion). Imports and exports through Ruili account for 70 percent of all trade between Yunnan and Myanmar, and around 30 percent of China's trade with the Southeast Asian country.
In 2010, the city received a new development impetus as it became a state-level development and opening-up experimental zone mandated to pursue greater opening up. The Ruili Key Development and Opening-Up Experimental Zone became one of the four such experimental zones in China. This consolidated Ruili's role in boosting cooperation between China and Myanmar.
More preferential policies followed, such as a preferential tax policy, state assistance to upgrade infrastructure, and facilitated cross-border movement of personnel, to attract more investment to the city and build it into a manufacturing base for China's exports to South and Southeast Asian markets. Today, many export-oriented enterprises have set up branches in Ruili. Based on all this, Ruili's import and export volume has kept an annual growth of above 30 percent since 2012. Every day, more than 50,000 people pass through its border.
The rapid development of Ruili has also benefited neighboring Myanmar. Due to the freer cross-border movement of personnel, many Myanmarese come to work in Ruili, where they have more opportunities and earn a higher salary.
With the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative, Ruili, as a bridge connecting China and Southeast Asia, will serve a more important role. In the near future, the Dali-Ruili Railway connecting Dali in central Yunnan with Ruili will be completed and eventually link with Myanmar's railways. For Ruili, the better interconnectivity will mean new opportunities for prosperity, which will also spill over into Myanmar and further in the neighborhood. It is a tangible example of fraternity and prosperity going beyond borders.