The large attendance at the sixth China International Import Expo reflects an increasing global interest in the Chinese market.
Representatives from 154 countries, regions, and international organizations gathered in Shanghai on November 5-10 for the sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE) in what was its first full return to in-person exhibition since the COVID-19 outbreak.
In his message to the expo, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the CIIE will better serve as a window for fostering a new development pattern that creates new opportunities for the world through China’s further development, and as a platform of high-standard opening-up that allows China’s enormous market to be shared by the world.
He also expressed the hope that the expo will play a greater role in providing shared international public goods and services that facilitate an open world economy and let the world benefit from win-win cooperation.
The event well met his expectations, creating a total of US $78.41 billion worth of tentative deals reached for one-year purchases of goods and services, a new record high.
The figure represents an increase of 6.7 percent from last year, Sun Chenghai, deputy director of the CIIE Bureau, told a press conference at the conclusion of the expo on November 10.
A Magnet for Global Traders
More than 3,400 enterprises from 128 countries and regions took part in the event, showcasing 442 new products, technologies and services, up from 438 last year, according to Sun. A record high of 289 global Fortune 500 companies and top industrial enterprises were present at the exhibition.
Since its launch in 2018, the expo has played an important role of China’s efforts to open its market to the world. “The CIIE has become a showcase of China’s new development paradigm, a platform for high-standard opening-up, and a public good for the whole world,” President Xi had said at the opening ceremony of the fifth CIIE on November 4, 2022.
The previous five CIIEs saw a total of 131 countries and international organizations participating in country exhibitions, with nearly 2,000 new products, technologies, and services making their debuts and a combined intended deals of nearly US $350 billion.
Most noticeably, for the first time, the event provided special approvals for animal and plant products. This allowed companies from Benin to bring their sugarloaf pineapple, dubbed as “the world’s sweetest pineapple,” to the venue. According to Sun, high-value orders were placed for the fruit after its debut during the event.
An important part of the CIIE, the Hongqiao International Economic Forum was also a great success. Held on November 5-6, it was attended by over 8,000 Chinese and foreign guests. The event included 22 sub-forums covering an array of topics such as global industrial chain, digital economy, green investment and trade, and protection of intellectual property rights.
As the sixth CIIE concluded, preparation for the seventh CIIE already began. About 200 companies have signed up, with the total booked exhibition area exceeding 100,000 square meters, according to Sun.
An Ideal Platform
The expo has served as a big stage for companies of various sizes from different countries, including the least developed ones, to showcase their products, technologies and services that might interest the Chinese buyers and consumers.
For Kim Fausing, CEO of Danfoss, a multi-industry technology provider based in Denmark, the expo is an ideal forum to engage with partners and policymakers. Attending the expo for the fourth time, he believes China is a crucial market for the company known for sustainable technologies.
The company has been active in China’s green economy. Its recent moves include the launch of the Danfoss Global Green Refrigerants Compressors Laboratory in Tianjin, which is the largest and most advanced of its kind, according to Fausing.
Fausing highlighted the company’s rapid growth in China over the past 27 years. "We are geared to accelerate the green transition in China and support the nation's efforts to achieve its dual carbon goals,” he told Xinhua News Agency.
The event also provided a chance for least developed countries (LDCs) to showcase themselves, and for small businesses to seek opportunities for growth. According to the CIIE Bureau, around 1,500 small and medium-sized companies from abroad attended the expo, nearly 40 percent more than last year. Of the 69 countries participating in the national pavilion section of the CIIE, 16 were LDCs. The expo offered free booths and other support to help introduce products from these countries to the Chinese market.
Among these countries was Timor-Leste from Southeast Asia, which exhibited coffee and ready-to-eat duck soup, among other products. It was the sixth time the country participated in the expo.
“It is the CIIE platform that has enhanced the international popularity of Timorese coffee and opened a window for it to explore the Chinese market. The orders signed at the expo have brought tangible improvement to the lives of Timorese farmers,” Bei Lei, executive curator of the national pavilion of Timor-Leste, stated.
For African countries, the expo represented another major opportunity for their companies to further explore the Chinese market after the Third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo held in Changsha, Hunan Province in central China, in July.
In the case of Rwanda, for example, at least 15 exhibitors from the country participated in the event, showcasing a diverse range of Rwandan products from coffee and tea to chili and honey.
“The CIIE holds immense importance for Rwanda. This is the sixth time we have participated in this prestigious event, and over the years, it has played a pivotal role in increasing Rwanda’s exports to China,” Rwandan Ambassador to China James Kimonyo said.
Apart from the regular participants of the CIIE, seven African countries, namely Central Africa, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Zimbabwe, attended the expo for the first time.
Confidence in the Chinese Economy
The expo has seen the display of not only new products, technologies, and services, but also the confidence of foreign businesses in the Chinese economy and market. Such confidence is best reflected by the largest U.S. presence in the history of the CIIE, involving over 200 exhibitors in sectors including semiconductors, medical devices, and new energy vehicles.
A particularly noteworthy development was the debut of the American Food and Agriculture Pavilion. The venture, co-hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai (AmCham Shanghai) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, represented the attendance of an official U.S. delegation for the first time.
Covering more than 200 square meters, the pavilion featured 17 exhibitors, showcasing agricultural products from meats and almonds to wines and health supplements.
Among them was the state of Georgia, the seventh biggest player in the U.S. trade, which has China as its top trading and export partner.
Herminio Andres Alija, managing director of trade for the state of Georgia, was in charge of the state’s participation. He said the companies present at the expo are only a few of many companies in Georgia that want to trade with China.
“We believe that this is one of the largest business events where China is showing to the world that they are not only the manufacturing hub of the world, but also a big market,” he told China.org.cn.
A total of US $505 million worth of deals were signed by exhibitors participating in the expo’s American Food and Agriculture Pavilion, according to AmCham Shanghai.
Despite sluggish global trade over the year, China has maintained stability in both imports and exports. Data show that in October, China’s imports increased by 6.4 percent year-on-year. During the first 10 months of 2023, the overall imports and exports of goods for China grew by 0.03 percent year-on-year, marking a turnaround from the 0.2 percent decline observed in the initial three quarters.
China’s real gross domestic product is projected to grow by 5.4 percent in 2023, according to an International Monetary Fund statement on November 7. “The Chinese economy is on track to meet the government’s 2023 growth target, reflecting a strong post-COVID recovery,” it said.
Chinese leaders have reiterated China’s commitment to further expand opening-up and share China’s development opportunities with the rest of the world. In his letter to the expo, President Xi pledged that China will firmly advance high-standard opening-up and continue to make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.
During his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the sixth CIIE and the Hongqiao International Economic Forum in Shanghai, Chinese Premier Li Qiang said China will continue to promote greater opening-up of market opportunities, adding that China has a population of over 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of over 400 million, presenting huge potential in terms of market demand.
According to him, China’s imports of goods and services are expected to reach US $17 trillion in cumulative terms in the next five years.