In the seventh and eighth centuries, Urumqi was a stop on the Silk Road, the caravan trail along which trade flowed between China and Europe. In the 21st century, the city in China’s far Northwest may again become a key point in trans-Eurasian communications, for much the same reason as before: It is on the way. That, at least, is an idea that has occurred to China Southern Airlines as it grapples with developing its international business despite the geographic limitations of its home ...

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