The first of these, held in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in 1957, for instance, reflected China’s pressing demand for foreign trade. Now known as the China Import and Export Fair, or Canton Fair, it is held every year in spring and autumn as a channel to the world for goods made in China.
Now, the focus is on Shanghai as host of the first China International Import Expo, which opened yesterday. Reflecting that consumption has overtaken exports and investment as a growth driver – contributing over 60 per cent of the economic growth in the country – it is a channel for the world to come into China.
The event, which runs till Saturday, is being held as the country celebrates the 40th anniversary of its reform and opening-up, and reflects China’s transformation from being the world’s factory to being a market for the world.
China now has more than 300 million middle class consumers, and that number will double in a decade or two, to twice that of the United States, and three times that of the European Union. Last year, China contributed 30 per cent of the world’s economic growth. That China increases imports to meet people’s demands and propel its continued development – it expects to import more than $10 trillion worth of goods and services over the next five years – will benefit companies from around the world and help stoke the global economy.
More than 3,000 enterprises from more than 130 countries and regions are attending the expo, and more than 5,000 kinds of commodities will be exhibited for the first time in China, highlighting the benefits of economic globalisation.
That many enterprises from countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road are taking part in the expo, with some from the least-developed African countries showing their exports for free, also makes the event a window by which countries can see the world.
And by deepening China’s interaction with the world, the expo will accelerate further reforms, most immediately in its intellectual property rights protection and financial sector.
History will show that this expo is a milestone signalling that China is on its way to becoming the world’s largest import and consumer market, and that countries around the world would share the dividends of China’s continued reform and opening-up.