Import expo a sign of 'business as usual' under worldwide pandemic

Andy Boreham
This year's CIIE will show the world that we can come back from the brink of economic shutdown, we can get back to business as usual, and we can do so while keeping safe.
Andy Boreham

Much to even my own surprise, the third China International Import Expo is set to go ahead as planned from next Thursday, in spite of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

CIIE is the world’s first national-level expo aimed at the importation of goods and services — in this case sellers from all around the world come to China, as opposed to the normal format where buyers travel the world’s various trade shows in search of products. 

And they come in droves. Just looking at the inaugural expo in 2018 as an example, 172 countries, regions and international organizations, including 3,617 overseas enterprises, took part in the expo at the National Exhibition and Convention Center, sprawled across 300,000 square meters. In the first year alone, transactions worth US$57.83 billion were reached. 

To be completely honest, I never thought any expo at all — be it import or export — would be possible in today’s climate. Under the “new normal” of no travel, social distancing, hand sanitizer, masks and staying at home, the mixing of people from all over the world under one huge roof seems like the last thing anyone would attempt.

But, once again, China is determined to show the world how it’s done. 

It would be fair to say that on top of facilitating global trade, another aim of this year’s CIIE is to show the world that we can come back from the brink of economic shutdown, and we can get back to business as usual. And, more importantly, we can do so while keeping safe.

A bunch of strict measures will keep participants, staff, media and buyers safe during the six-day event, probably the strictest of all being that anyone entering the country to take part needs to first undergo 14 days in quarantine at a government-managed facility. They will be tested for coronavirus twice during that two weeks and will only be allowed to leave quarantine and take part in the expo after two negative nucleic acid tests. 

Staff and media, including myself, also need to self-monitor their health for more than two weeks before the expo starts, which includes temperature checks twice a day. We, too, have to pass a nucleic acid test before being allowed entry to the site.

And as evidenced in the numbers of those participating in this year’s expo, the world trusts China. More than 180 countries, regions and organizations are participating this year, which includes nearly 4,000 participating enterprises.

This trust from around the world is probably owing to China’s proven ability to manage life under COVID-19 extremely effectively. Whenever any new outbreak springs up, as is inevitable, China quickly and thoroughly contains it, often testing millions of citizens in the process to ensure no stone is left unturned. 

I’ve been a part of the expo every year since it first began in 2018, but this year is definitely going to be, err, unique. I’m not sure how comfortable it will be running around all day with a mask on, but I did hear that attendees will be limited to 30 percent of capacity this time to ensure safe social distancing, so that might make it a bit easier to accept.

I hope you will all tune in to Andy’s Two-Minute Daily Expo Vlog as I bring you the highlights from the site, as well as my daily column. See you all from CIIE starting next Thursday.

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