China has officially begun the construction of the Pinglu Canal, a groundbreaking project that will connect Nanning, the capital of Guangxi autonomous region, to the Beibu Gulf. This remarkable undertaking, estimated to cost $10.3 billion, involves the creation of a 134 km canal stretching from the Xijin Reservoir near Nanning to the port of Qinzhou in the south.
The Pinglu Canal holds immense significance as it marks the first man-made waterway to be built in China in over a millennium since the construction of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. This ambitious project encompasses the development of waterways, shipping hubs, water conservancy facilities, and support for cross-river projects along the canal. The main channel will measure 6.3 meters × 80 meters × 360 meters.
Designed to accommodate an annual one-way capacity of 89 million tons, the Pinglu Canal will serve as the shortest access route from the Xijiang River to the sea. Vessels weighing up to 5,000 tonnes will be able to traverse this proposed waterway. The construction of the canal will commence at the mouth of the Pingtang River in Hengzhou City, Nanning City, following the main stream of the Xijiang River. It will traverse the watershed between the Shaping River and the Jiuzhou River, which is a tributary of the Qin River, and continue south along the main stream of the Qin River until it reaches Qinzhou in the Beibu Gulf.
This ambitious endeavor will involve the clearance of approximately 340 million cubic meters of dirt and rocks—three times the amount excavated for China’s iconic Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant. The construction of the Pinglu Canal is expected to be finalized by the end of 2026.
While Guangxi has made substantial investments in its port infrastructure in recent years, water transportation in the inland region currently relies on passing through the neighboring province of Guangdong to reach the open sea. Situated on the border with Vietnam, Guangxi holds significant strategic importance as a crucial hub for cooperation with countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Upon completion, the Pinglu Canal is anticipated to provide a substantial boost to trade between China and ASEAN nations. It will facilitate enhanced maritime connectivity, promoting economic growth and fostering closer ties between China and its ASEAN partners.