Xi steers import expo into global platform for sharing Chinese opportunities
Entering its fifth edition this year, the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai has become a vital platform for promoting trade, investment and global cooperation, and a "golden gate" to the vast Chinese market.
This year's expo gathered 145 countries, regions and international organizations. Enterprises from 127 countries and regions were involved in the event, including those from all the member states of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership -- the world's largest free trade deal yet.
A total of 73.52 billion U.S. dollars worth of tentative deals were reached for one-year purchases of goods and services at the fifth CIIE, which concluded Thursday, up 3.9 percent year on year.
As a creation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the CIIE is the world's first import expo held at the national level.
President Xi has personally planned, proposed, deployed and promoted the expo. For five consecutive years, Xi's speeches and remarks have signaled to the world that China will become more open.
"Five years ago, I announced the decision to hold the CIIE for the very purpose of expanding China's opening-up and turning our enormous market into enormous opportunities for the world. Today, 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," Xi said Friday at the opening ceremony of the fifth CIIE.
A PROMISE FULFILLED
In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the first CIIE in 2018, Xi said the expo is "an important decision made by China to pursue a new round of high-level opening-up, and is China's major initiative to still widen market access to the rest of the world."
Xi's leading role helped steer the very first CIIE to great success. Over 3,600 global enterprises participated in the first expo, reaching intended deals worth 57.8 billion dollars.
Over the past five years, Xi, through each expo, restated China's commitment to opening-up. Amid the headwinds of resurging unilateralism, protectionism, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the import expo has become a banner of China's unswerving efforts to open up.
The CIIE has seen Xi announce a series of concrete actions, including advancing the construction of pilot free trade zones (FTZs) and the Hainan Free Trade Port, continuously trimming the negative lists for foreign investment, and expanding the opening of telecommunications, healthcare and other services.
Since China's first pilot FTZ negative list for foreign investment was implemented in 2013, the number of items on the list has been cut from 190 to 27.
At the opening ceremony of the fifth CIIE, Xi said that China would work with all countries and all parties to share opportunities in its vast market, from its institutional opening-up, and from deepened international cooperation.
Compared with opening-up based on the flow of goods and production factors, institutional opening-up is of a higher level and greater intensity, and will have more impact, according to analysts. By aligning with high-standard international economic and trade rules, China is firmly committed to high-standard opening-up.
"The government here has been very proactive. It has both favorable policies in terms of taxation subsidies, and getting the right infrastructure. So all the government side of things were very, very smooth," said Julian Blissett, General Motors (GM) executive vice president and president of GM China, a five-time CIIE exhibitor.
The Durant Guild, GM's premium import and lifestyle platform freshly launched in September, debuted its first model to be imported to the Chinese market at the fifth CIIE. The brand-new service, in Blissett's words, was "born" from the CIIE.
A PUBLIC GOOD
In today's world, confronted with accelerated changes unseen in a century and a sluggish economic recovery, the five consecutive editions of the CIIE have brought sustained positive momentum to the global economy.
The expo has promoted extensive matchmaking between exhibitors and buyers, strengthened the confidence of foreign investors, and bolstered economic and social development.
Data show that, from 2018 to 2021, exhibitors at the four editions of the CIIE launched more than 1,500 new products, technologies and services, with a total tentative turnover exceeding 270 billion dollars.
Over the years, China's foreign trade has continued to grow. In the first 10 months of 2022, its foreign trade of goods was 34.62 trillion yuan (about 4.78 trillion dollars), an increase of 9.5 percent from 2021.
"We need to promote development through opening-up and deepen exchanges and cooperation among us. We need to 'join hands' with each other instead of 'letting go' of each other's hands. We need to 'tear down walls,' not to 'erect walls.' We need to stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism," Xi said at the second CIIE in 2019.
American companies are heavily invested in the CIIE and are pleased with the results of their investments, said U.S.-China Business Council President Craig Allen. Allen added that it is a great place to meet Chinese buyers, government officials, suppliers and friends from all over China.
Noting that China has produced about 30 percent of global growth over the past 10 years, Allen said American firms are interested in all elements of the Chinese economy and want to sell into every segment.
A SHARED FUTURE
While addressing the first edition, Xi said the CIIE will be held annually and would "feature good performance, good results and continued success in the years to come."
"China has a population of 1.4 billion and a middle-income group that exceeds 400 million," Xi noted at the third CIIE in 2020. "The vastly huge China market is the most promising in the world. Total import into China is estimated to top 22 trillion U.S. dollars in the coming decade."
A few days ago, at a contract signing conference, about 60 enterprises and institutions signed up for the sixth CIIE, many of which were five-time exhibitors.
"The success of the CIIE for the fifth consecutive year demonstrates the strong resilience of China's economy and its huge market size. It reinforces our determination to take deep root in China and serve China," said Hann Pang, president of Thermo Fisher China.
"China is ready to work with all countries to practice true multilateralism, build more consensus for openness, jointly overcome the difficulties and challenges confronting global economic growth, and make sure that our commitment to openness will bring about broad prospects for global development," Xi said at the fifth CIIE.