As the largest exporter and second largest importer in the world, China should coordinate its imports and exports to optimize two-way allocation of resources and enhance its comparative benefits in the international division of labor. In April 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted four major moves for China’s high-level opening up in his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia. Boosting the country’s imports is among the strategies. And the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai is one of the key specific measures supporting the policy.
The first CIIE in 2018 turned out to be a major boost for China’s imports, with intentional transaction volume reaching US$57.83 billion. The expo helped Chinese buyers access quality foreign goods while creating opportunities for foreign enterprises to showcase their products in China, a huge market of 1.4 billion people. Among more than 3,600 exhibitors attending the expo were 220 enterprises among the Fortune Global 500 and other leading enterprises in niche industries. Over 300 new products and technologies debuted at the event. As China focuses on innovation-driven development, the first CIIE gave the Chinese people a broader and closer view of cutting-edge technologies from around the world.
A year later, the second CIIE was held. Compared to its predecessor, the second expo boasts operations at a larger scale and greater participation from global corporations. The numbers of registered countries, regions and enterprises for the second CIIE all surpass the previous event, and many exhibition spots were booked long before. It is notable that attendance by Fortune Global 500 enterprises and leading enterprises of their industries both exceed last year. About 70 percent of exhibitors at the second CIIE attended the first expo in 2018. This year is certain to bring more new products, technologies and services.
The CIIE not only facilitates imports but is also conducive to improving the business environment for import trade. The reason why the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been so widely welcomed is that it brings real business opportunities for people along the routes. Statistics show that China’s intended transaction volume with countries joining the BRI at the first CIIE reached US$4.72 billion, a significant figure. Many countries participating in the BRI are developing nations. Due to their unsatisfying economic performance, products from these countries find it hard to sell on the global market. After the first CIIE enhanced unimpeded trade for BRI countries, subsequent events will only further improve the situation.
An import expo may last for only a few days. Its success depends on how well it boosts imports in general. The first CIIE brought the “6+365” One-Stop Trading Services Platform, aiming to connect the expo and daily import promotion. As the mechanism improves, the second and following expos will bring more benefits to society.
With the endeavor of the first and second CIIE, China’s imports have reached a new high. Contrasting conventional trade exhibitions, the CIIE has promoted balanced trade and further refined the country’s system for promoting imports. As China evolves from a trader of quantity to a trader of quality, the CIIE is expected to become a world-famous event like the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Leipziger Messe International as it becomes a permanent driver of trade alongside the China Import and Export Fair in Guangdong Province.
The author is deputy director and a research fellow with the Department of Research of International Market under the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.