Major import fair to demonstrate purchasing power of 700 million middle-class Chinese consumers
By GT staff reporters
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday opened the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world’s biggest import fair, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to batter the world economy, with a keynote speech that underlined China’s unswerving commitment to further opening up its market and helping to boost global cooperation, as the world faces rising protectionism and other challenges.
Xi pledged that China will firmly safeguard true multilateralism, share market opportunities with the rest of the world, promote high-standard opening-up and uphold the common interests of the world.
“The opening-up measures unveiled at the third CIIE have been basically implemented,” Xi said.
This year also marked the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and China has fully honored its commitments to the multilateral trade body. Over the past two decades, China has become the world’s factory, the largest trading nation in goods, and the second-largest consumer market.
Along with a raft of opening-up measures, Xi announced that China would further shorten the negative list for foreign investment, and release a negative list for cross-border trade in services in the pilot free trade zones. China will also deeply engage in international cooperation on green and low-carbon development and the digital economy, and actively work to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, Xi said in the speech.
Xi’s speech on Thursday sends a clear message of China’s determination to further open to the outside world and also share its development opportunities with the world, Li Changan, professor of the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Against the current backdrop of anti-globalization and rising trade protectionism, China’s high-level opening to the outside world aims to adapt to the trend of world economic development, which serves as a forceful counterattack to practitioners of trade protectionism under the guise of “free trade”, Li noted.
Showing growing enthusiasm for the 4th CIIE, scheduled offline from November 5 to 10 in Shanghai, foreign businesses highlighted their confidence in the resilience and growth prospects of the world’s second-largest economy, as well as China’s ability to effectively contain the coronavirus.
The number of exhibitors to the expo increased to 3,000 from 2,700 in 2020, and they came from 127 countries and regions, a wider representation from last year’s 120, despite a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases that so far hit more than 19 Chinese provincial-level regions.
President Xi’s keynote speech underlines the importance of openness and cooperation, Pius S. Hornstein, country lead of Sanofi China, told the Global Times on Thursday. “Through these pillars of support, we can promote the global economy’s recovery and share prosperity, enabling countries to more positively respond to global issues such as pandemics, climate change and energy issues.”
Over half of the top 20 global pharmaceutical firms are taking part in the expo, with multiple innovative drugs making their debut in China, domestic news portal thepaper.cn reported.
In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 4th CIIE, President Xi said China stands ready to work with all countries to build an open world economy so that the spring breeze of openness will bring warmth to all parts of the world. “Constantly expanding opening-up will not only accelerate China’s high-quality development, but also inject inexhaustible impetus into the recovery of the world economy,” said Yin Zheng, executive vice president of Schneider Electric, told the Global Times on Thursday.
CIIE purchasing power
Almost all the booths were installed and decorated as of Thursday noon, the Global Times discovered during a trip to the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai).
Due to the virus flare-ups, strict measures are being taken at the CIIE exhibition halls to ensure the safety of the attendants, including temperature-taking tents that have been put up at entrances, as well as pandemic prevention reminders at many spots.
At the 3rd CIIE, intended business contracts worth $72.62 billion were signed, up 2.1 percent from the second CIIE. The pandemic caused the growth to slow down from the previous year, which recorded a high growth rate of 23 percent.
However, Zhang Jianping, director of the Center for Regional Economy with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, predicted that this year’s signing volume will likely be far higher than the 2.1-percent increase registered in 2020.
“The Chinese economy just started its recovery from the initial COVID-19 outbreak last year. This year, more value in deals is expected to be signed as the country’s foreign trade posted positive growth for 15 consecutive months as of August this year,” Zhang said.
The world’s largest trading nation is in full throttle this year. Customs data in mid-October showed that China’s foreign trade rose 32.8 percent year-on-year in the first three quarters to reach $4.3 trillion. Exports rose 33 percent, while imports increased 32.6 percent.
The other factor is that Chinese people’s buying during overseas travel has been largely nonexistent due to the restrictions imposed by the virus on international travel, which contributed to more buying from professional buyers, Zhang said.
China’s effective handling of the epidemic, such as the recent swift and accurate response at Disney Resort in Shanghai, means consumer confidence is also less affected by the epidemic in China than in other countries, Shi Yan, an executive at data analytics company Nielsen told the Global Times on Thursday.
China has become the world’s second largest consumer market and the largest trader in goods, according to Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). China is also vying closely with the US to be the largest retailer market.
According to a catalogue of exhibitors at the expo obtained by the Global Times on Thursday, Japan fielded the largest number of companies with a total of 289 exhibitors. The US, seeing itself in a rising rivalry with China but which has recorded a recent flurry of diplomatic activities, sent 185 companies to the expo.
European exports powerhouse Germany fielded 167 exhibitors, and Russia, which is enjoying its best historical ties with China, sent 42 companies.
In addition to an export cargo of 45 tons of pine nuts, Afghanistan also sent three companies to the 4th CIIE.
India, despite projections for bilateral trade with China exceeding $100 billion this year, did not send any companies to the expo, according to the catalogue.
While the world economy is facing a series of issues such as inflation, logistic hurdles, and lackluster growth, the CIIE is a shot in the arm to the world economy, and China’s trading partners all hope more orders can be placed through the expo, Wei Jianguo, former MOFCOM vice minister and executive deputy director of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told the Global Times on Thursday. “The more the Chinese buy, the happier the world.”
China’s 400 million middle-class consumers have grown to 700 million, which proves irresistible to foreign companies seeking growth, Wei said.
China’s market potential and opening-up policies have also given more confidence to many foreign businesses attending the CIIE.
Charles Kao, an executive with South Korean beauty and cosmetics conglomerate Amorepacific, told the Global Times on Thursday that he witnessed the gathering of thousands of business people at the import expo, felt the openness and vitality of the Chinese market, and had more confidence in further development in China.
“This year’s Expo takes place at a time when China is extensively building its new ‘dual circulation’ development model. It is also a time when connectivity and exchange are significant in empowering the recovery of the global economy. We therefore consider CIIE an important platform to further tap into potential business opportunities,” Eddy Chan, senior vice president with FedEx, the US-based express transportation service provider.
China’s high level of openness has opened up both domestic and international markets, Shirley Xue, general manager of Germany-based producer of personal care products Beiersdorf Northeast Asia told the Global Times on Thursday. The China market today is booming and extremely diverse, and the CIIE provides a great platform for the world to “explore the opportunities” in China.