Herdsman Musa Purkhan checks out his horses in Simuhana village in Wuqia County of the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Hao Zhao)
URUMQI, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Herdsman Musa Purkhan is in great demand in Simuhana, China's westernmost administrative village, with port staff, village officials and tourists always seeking him out for some job or other.
His main job is coordinating the transport of export vehicles passing through customs at the Irkeshtam port on the China-Kyrgyzstan border. Located in the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the crossing point is a hive of activity due to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has seen a big increase in cross-border traffic.
However, Musa Purkhan is also called upon to help with the local tourism business, providing transport around the local area or organizing the upgrading of homestay accommodation to serve the growing number of visitors.
With so many responsibilities, he is no longer an ordinary herdsman with acres of spare time, but a busy businessman who has seized the great opportunities brought by the BRI.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of China's proposal of the BRI to inject more impetus into global development. For the Irkeshtam port and the nearby village of Simuhana, this means long lines of cars waiting for customs clearance, a sign that exports are booming.
"Where is Musa?" Zhang Zhixin, director of the management and service center of the port's management committee, asked anxiously.
Zhang explained that Musa Purkhan is their traffic coordinator who organizes drivers to move cars from the port to the border, a distance of about 4 km.
Before the handover, Musa Purkhan will provide the necessary vehicle information to the local authorities. Afterwards, he is in charge of bringing the drivers back to the port. He typically makes 100 yuan (about 14 U.S. dollars) for every small car that he transports, more for larger vehicles.
"Because there are a large number of vehicles and the customs clearance time is limited, we need people like Musa to help coordinate the order of vehicle clearance," said Zhang, adding that there are nearly 200 drivers and more than 10 coordinators in the port.
"He is only 35 years old and also the first traffic coordinator in our village," said Aynagul Akemuali, an official from Simuhana, adding that Musa Purkhan has earned about 400,000 yuan from this job so far this year.
Her comments on the money to be made here are supported by the foreign trade data. In the first four months of 2023, more than 9,000 cars were exported, most of them new-energy vehicles made in China, the highest figure for the period since the port opened in 2002, according to Zhang.
Musa Purkhan used to drive a seven-seat shuttle bus to transport people from Simuhana to Wuqia County some 140 km away. It was that job that brought him into contact with local vehicle-export brokers. Since the land port resumed operations in early January, he has been helping those companies to arrange suitable drivers, a task that keeps him busy five days a week.
"The BRI decennial has brought hustle and bustle to the port," he said. "However, the customs clearance time for new cars lasts only from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., so we are racing against the clock."
Aynagul Akemuali also has plenty of other work for Musa Purkhan to do.
She wants him to arrange a meeting with local villagers, urging them to improve the homestay hotels they provide to tourists. Rather than offering traditional beds consisting of carpets on the ground, she wants them to install modern beds, which tourists will find more comfortable. She also wants them to buy some disposable daily necessities.
Musa Purkhan's opinion matters a lot to the locals, and so he is the best man to drive such improvements.
"He was the very first person in our village to become wealthy and transform his house into a hostel. Musa Purkhan can play an exemplary and leading role in our project," Aynagul Akemuali explained.
Starting from last year, Simuhana was hailed as the village that enjoyed the last rays of sunshine in China, making it a sought-after tourism spot. As the village is quite far from the nearby county, visitors usually prefer to stay overnight and enjoy the local picturesque scenery for a few days in tranquility.
Musa Purkhan agrees with the ideas for upgrading the local tourist accommodation. "Guests can also experience Kirgiz yogurt, music and dance in our homestays," he said.
As more and more tourists come to this village, there is a growing demand for regular travel services to nearby counties.
Musa Purkhan recently bought an 18-seat passenger bus with the aim of employing some local drivers to meet the new demand. After a busy day at the border, he turns his attention to yet another task, this time embarking on a journey to the city of Kashgar, over 200 km away.
"I'm preparing for a driver's license exam. Local drivers are too busy to deal with the shuttle-bus business, so my new vehicle remains idle. Once I'm qualified to drive the larger vehicle, I will do the job myself," Musa Purkhan said. ■
This aerial photo taken on April 26, 2023 shows a view of Simuhana village in Wuqia County of the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Hao Zhao)
This photo taken on April 25, 2023 shows vehicles to be exported at the Irkeshtam port in the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Hao Zhao)