Eyes of the world focused on import expo

Wang Yong
That 400,000 professional visitors are expected to show up at the expo attests to both China's market potential and the need to embrace the world's best products and practices.
Wang Yong

Carbon fiber cars, plant-based “meat” and foldable canoes are just a few examples of the innovative products on show at the third China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

The third CIIE, which opened on Wednesday, has attracted many global brands for the growing Chinese consumption market. According to a Xinhua news agency report on Thursday, about 13,000 imported items are on display during the event that is running until November 10, including hundreds of goods, technologies and services making their global debut.

This year’s exhibition area is about 30,000 square meters bigger than last year’s. The area for Fortune Global 500 companies has increased by 14 percent.

These are hard-won results, given continual global efforts to contain COVID-19 by such measures as strict quarantine that controls people flow. That 400,000 professional visitors are expected to show up at the expo attests to both China’s market potential and the country’s need to embrace the world’s best products and practices.

Take health food for example.

Xinhua reported on Thursday that US agribusiness firm Cargill is showcasing a plant-based "meat" product. Xinhua quoted a customer as saying: “It has a texture like chicken and beef, but it's vegan."

Cargill introduced the product in April. “Our surveys showed that about 80 percent of customers liked this product, and more than 60 percent said they would purchase it again,” Liu Jun, president of Cargill China, told Xinhua.

Many scientists the world over have discovered that eating too much meat not only harms one’s health, but that emissions from livestock pollutes the earth and the air. Hence, a growing public awareness to eat less meat. According to Xinhua, plant-based “meat” ranks among the top five most popular items with visitors to the expo.

Xinhua also reported that French yeast manufacturer Lesaffre is introducing a product that helps popularize low-salt food. According to Lesaffre, Chinese consumers are increasingly inclined to low-salt food and its new product can reduce salt content by 30 percent while adding natural flavors.

Topping Xinhua’s list of popular items was the ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — a life-support machine. The American Thoraic Society says the machine pumps blood from a patient’s body to an artificial lung that adds oxygen to it and removes carbon dioxide. Thus, it replaces the function of the person’s own lungs. The machine then sends the blood back to the patient via a pump with the same force as the heart. ECMO’s popularity has to do with people’s efforts to fight COVID-19.

All these examples point to a huge pent-up demand in the Chinese market for health-related products and services. 

And not just health. Machinery and equipment (such as bulldozers and aircraft engines), trade in services, consumer goods, food and agricultural products are in the limelight at the expo as well. Stroll the exhibition sites, and you will embrace an array of leading global brands from Fujifilm and Canon to Volvo and tractor manufacturer John Deere.

On the sidelines of the expo, HSBC released its “Navigator: Growing with China” report on Thursday. Based on a survey of 1,100 companies across 11 key world markets, the report found that many companies have been increasing their presence in China. According to the report, about three-quarters of those surveyed, including 70 percent of US companies, said they expect to increase their supply chains in China over the next two years.

Corroborating the findings of the report, dozens of foreign companies, including Hyundai, Shiseido and Michelin, have signed up with the CIIE bureau to attend the expo over the next three years, Xinhua reported.

“We’ve benefited enormously from the value that the CIIE has created and witnessed first-hand the changes the CIIE has brought to Chinese consumers,” Fabrice Megarbane, president and CEO of L’Oreal China, was quoted as saying. The company booked another three years at the CIIE on Thursday.

Many more companies have expressed their confidence in China’s development. Claude Sarrailh, president of Metro China, said: “I believe that there are three crucial drivers — further opening-up and reform, the resilience of the Chinese economy, and the huge consumption potential of the rapidly rising middle-class — that will be the foundation and mainstays of the successful implementation of the ‘dual circulation’ strategy.” 

Dual circulation refers to a concerted development of the domestic and international markets.

Kamran Vossoughi, president and CEO of Michelin China, said: “Whether facing the pandemic or economic challenges, what we have to do is not to escape, but to stay confident, brave and resilient, so that we can respond to challenges and embrace a sustainable future. We also firmly believe that through openness and cooperation, companies and countries can get more opportunities, solve more problems and share the fruits of high-quality development.”

Zou Lei, an associate professor of international relations at the Shanghai Administration Institute, says in his book “China International Import Expo: Shared Future in a New Era” that China is poised to become “a unique global presence” — both the world’s factory and the world’s market.

“In the foreseeable future … ‘made in China’ and ‘made for China’ will be equally important,” he said.

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