Burlington Northern (BN), actively seeking a strong trade relationship with China, has taken advantage of a unique opportunity to participate with China's Ministry of Railways in a film documentary being prepared for US television audiences.
Filming of the documentary in May and June by a crew from World Pacific Pictures Inc. of Portland covered 7,000 miles and focused on the economic role of railroads in China.
BN's $200,000 contribution to the cost of ''China by Rail'' is a major step in its program to build good trade relations with China, a program that has already resulted in a number of business deals between the company and the Chinese government.
BN interest in developing greater international trade, specifically with China, prompted formation in 1982 of an export subsidiary - Burlington Northern International Services (BNI). It is designed to market BN natural resources, such as timber products, worldwide, along with products of other producers.
After its formation, BNI began shipping logs to China, and early in 1983 railroad ties valued at more than $3 million were sold to China as well. At the same time, BNI has purchased from China railroad-track tools and components for rolling stock and railway hardware. Rail-equipment sales and purchases were the result of close relationships with the Ministry of Railways.
Ted Michon, president of BNI, says there also have been discussions about BNI providing consultant services ''with regard to certain types of rail transportation.''
Mr. Michon says the film will identify BN ''both within China and the United States as a company that supports improved relationships with China.''
BN is looking especially for export markets for grain and other agricultural products, as well as coal and minerals, logs and timber products. The BN railroad is the nation's largest hauler of grain, while coal, minerals, logs, and timber are among BN's $5.7 billion worth of assets.
Starting point of the 7,000-mile filming of ''China by Rail'' was Shanghai, and the crew moved through Chengdu, Guilin, and Peking, with filming activity coordinated with Peking television and the Ministry's Foreign Service Corporation.
The five-man crew was headed by director Jorgen Leth of Denmark, producer of a number of award-winning documentaries, including ''66 Scenes from America'' and a feature film, ''Foreign Correspondent,'' filmed in Haiti.
Before leaving on the rail assignment, Mr. Leth said he hoped this film ''will give Western audiences some penetrating and colorful glimpses of daily life in the People's Republic of China and help all of us (to) understand the Chinese people and their culture.''
David N. Talbott, president of World Pacific Pictures, said his film had ''high-level government approval, enabling the production team to gain access to special locations and cultural enclaves rarely seen by the West.''
The 90-minute film is expected to be ready for television by early December. Subsequently, a 30-minute version will be produced for use by BN throughout its service area.