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President Xi Jinping visits Rizhao Port on Wednesday to learn about progress in promoting the smart and green development of the port, and expanding opening-up, in Rizhao, Shandong province. JU PENG/XINHUA

President Xi Jinping has urged Shandong, China's second-largest province in population and an important economic powerhouse, to pursue reform-driven high-quality development and build itself into "a hub of high-level opening-up", as he wrapped up an inspection tour to the eastern province on Friday.

The three-day fact-finding trip brought Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, to the cities of Rizhao and Jinan.

During his visit on Wednesday afternoon to Rizhao Port, a national model for intelligent and sustainable bulk cargo handling, Xi affirmed the port's efforts in turning itself from a traditional port into a modern one by advancing technological innovation in recent years.

Now the port not only ranks among the top in terms of its cargo throughput across the country, but has also gained valuable experience in upgrading and transforming traditional industries to foster new quality productive forces, he said.

Constructed after China launched reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, Rizhao Port has evolved into a vital global hub for the transshipment of energy and bulk raw materials, with 76 operational berths and over 80 domestic and international container shipping routes.

Data shows that in the first quarter of this year, the port's cargo throughput increased by 6.7 percent year-on-year, and container throughput grew by 15.3 percent year-on-year.

When talking with staff working at the port, Xi encouraged them to continue to strive for greater progress in promoting the port's management and operations.

This is not the first time that Xi has inspected a city with a port. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, he has visited major ports across the country including the Yangluo container port in Wuhan in 2013, Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in 2020, and a coal port area of Huanghua Port in Hebei province last year.

During his visit to Tianjin Port in January 2019, Xi stressed that the economy is the top priority in developing a country, and to achieve economic progress, building transportation infrastructure, especially maritime transport, comes first.

Xin Ge, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy and Governance at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said in an online comment piece that Xi's inspection in Rizhao underscores his dedication to developing a robust port economy that supports high-level opening-up and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Speaking at a briefing on Friday on the work of the provincial Party committee and the provincial government in Jinan, the provincial capital, Xi urged Shandong to actively build an international logistics corridor, promote the coordinated innovation of its free-trade zones and deeply integrate into high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

He also called on the coastal province to leverage its unique advantage of abundant marine resources and build up its marine sector with efforts such as building world-class clusters of marine ports.

Xi said that as a major grain producer, Shandong bears a significant responsibility for ensuring national food security. He said work must be done to boost the province's modern agriculture and high-standard cropland development, thus building it into a higher-level granary.

In Rizhao, Xi also visited a coastal greenway, featuring viewing platforms, sports trails, and rest areas for visitors, to learn about local efforts in ecological restoration.

"The goal of advancing Chinese modernization is to make people's lives better and better," he said, urging efforts to improve the people's well-being by building a beautiful homeland.

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