FOR more than six decades, the China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair), one of the largest physical commodity fairs in the world, has been witness to China growing into a major global trading power. Forty years ago, China opened its doors to the world and in 2001 became a member of the WTO. The opening-up process enabled the realization of the “Chinese miracle in the history of economic development.”
In November, China holds the China International Import Expo (CIIE), opening yet another chapter in the history of its opening-up policy.
China attaches much importance to imports. The latest statistics show that China’s imports in the first half of 2018 reached US $1.03 trillion, achieving an increase of 19.9 percent over the same period last year. According to the white paper China and the World Trade Organization released in June by the State Council Information Office, China’s imports will be valued at US $24 trillion in 15 years.
Benefiting the World
The National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), which is 10 minutes’ drive from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, has attracted global attention. It is the venue for the first China International Import Expo. In Beijing, more than 1,000 kilometers north of Shanghai, over 20 state ministries have released policies that encourage imports. On July 9, 2018, in order to systematically expand imports, the State Council approved and issued a guideline on expanding imports in a bid to promote a balanced foreign trade format and high-quality economic development, which includes 15 specific policies covering four areas. The expo has involved the whole country with 38 trading groups being responsible for enrolling and organizing enterprises established in various provinces and municipalities to promote interaction between buyers and exhibitors. Every investment and exhibition promotion event of CIIE has piqued overseas attention. Many well-known brands have registered for the first CIIE, such as Danone, DuPont, Emerson, YASHILY, Whirlpool Corporation, Bayer, BMW, Daimler, and Unilever. Moreover, multinational corporations like Metro and Lesaffre have already registered for the Second China International Import Expo in 2019.
Chen Fengying, researcher at China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, mentioned that as Chinese President Xi Jinping said, CIIE is not an average expo but an announcement and action of China’s major policy that it is actively opening it market. Currently, the U.S. is engaged in unilateralism, protectionism, and trade bullying under the banner of “America First,” which seriously hinders international trade and globalization. That China holds the CIIE and takes the initiative to expand opening-up conforms to the trend of global development. It is a demonstration that China is willing to undertake its responsibility as a large country and that the rise of China will bring benefits to the world. More importantly, it is a concrete step in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative and building a community with a shared future for mankind.
On May 25, 2018, a palm-sized robot dances at the World Manufacturing Convention 2018.
CIIE is the first import expo of its kind in the world. Through CIIE, global enterprises can export their products to the Chinese market as well as other markets in the world. CIIE is, in essence, an open platform where exhibitors can sell their goods to the world and buy products from other parts of the world. What’s more, CIIE is also the grand finale of China’s four home diplomacy events this year, the others being the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 held in April, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Qingdao Summit in June, and the 2018 Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in September. CIIE is a major step in promoting development of global inclusiveness, and demonstrates China’s policy of expanding opening-up, effectively promoting supply-side structural reform, and an active action to meet people’s ever increasing need for a better life.
China Needs Global Products
At the World Manufacturing Convention 2018 held in Hefei, Anhui Province in May 2018, the performance by an automated machine attracted much attention. The machine can automatically select products that do not meet required standards bringing a new dimension to quality control. The automated machine is produced by Shanghai Betterway Automation Technology Co., Ltd. Zhang Wei, a sales director of Betterway, said that the research and development of the machine owes a lot to its cooperation with foreign companies. Betterway used existing foreign advanced remote sensing and control technology, and incorporated these technologies into its own products to develop a series of automated testing machines. These machines can accomplish the testing and sorting of mass-produced products and have the advantages of high efficiency and low cost.
Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce, said imports of reasonable structure and moderate scale have a positive effect on the improving supply of domestic production factors. By importing intermediate products and introducing advanced technologies, standards, and management expertise, we can improve the level of innovation of domestic enterprises and promote the upgrading of traditional industries in China, he said. This is also helpful in cultivating emerging strategic industries. Importing quality end products will force Chinese enterprises to reduce their costs, improve techniques, and achieve innovation in technology, said Zhong.
Consumers now have a growing range of options when it comes to shopping. From online shopping to hiring people to shop internationally, the days of long queues to buy special items are fast becoming a thing of the past.
Imported products used to be a luxury for many consumers, but now, they are part of people’s daily life. In Chaoyang District of Beijing, imported brands can be found easily in French supermarket Carrefour, and these imported brands offer various kinds of products including snacks, wines, baby products, and fresh foods.
Xi’an Railway Freight Center commences the import of vehicles on June 13, 2018.
The rise of new consumer groups, transformation of new technology, improvement of income levels, and other factors have jointly contributed to a faster upgrading of consumption in China. According to the report delivered by Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), at the 19th CPC National Congress, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved into the one between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.
Zhao Ping, director of the international trade research department under the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said that the upgrading of consumption is embodied by consumers’ higher demand for products of better quality and brands. That China is taking initiative to expand imports will cut down the price of imported products, stimulate the upgrading of consumption quality in China, and brings more benefits to the common people.
Detailed Import Plan
Although Japan has a land mass of just 378,000 square kilometers and lacks agricultural products, petroleum, and other resources, its economy is ranked third in the world. Relying on imports, the United States is able to develop a number of labor-intensive industries abroad and develop capital-intensive and technology-intensive industries at home, maintaining a dominant position in the global technological landscape.
Zhang Li, a researcher with Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that if we examine the development path of economic powers, we can find that they are good at taking advantage of imports. When the economy has developed to a certain stage, moderate imports can optimize the resource allocation around the world and accelerate industrial upgrading and structural adjustment.
Leng Youbin, chairman of Feihe Dairy, believes that the key point in expanding imports is to make structural adjustments and promote supply-side structural reform to meet the new consumer needs and further enhance China’s global competitiveness.
According to the guideline on expanding imports to promote a balanced foreign trade format and high-quality economic development issued by the State Council, China will encourage the import of products of four categories. The first is products related to people’s livelihood, including daily consumer goods, medicine, and nursing and rehabilitation equipment. The second is service trade, including production services like architectural design, business logistics, consultation services, R&D, energy saving, environmental protection, and environmental service. The third is technical equipment that is helpful in development transformation, including technology, equipment, and components. The fourth is agricultural products and resource products, including scarce agricultural products and agricultural materials and agricultural machinery that will improve agricultural competitiveness.
Liang Ming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that the plan of importing goods is aimed at China’s industrial transformation and meeting the needs of consumption upgrading. Once we determine the imported goods, it is necessary to take systematic measures at every stage of importation so that imports can truly become an important driving force for the high-quality development of the Chinese economy.
To expand imports, China should not only focus on what it imports, but also where and how to import. Besides, it’s also necessary to streamline the procedure of imports. CIIE, foreign-owned enterprises, foreign investment, cross-border e-commerce, and national import promotion demonstration zones will constitute major channels of imports, and China will further streamline import customs clearance procedures, lower institutional costs of imports, and accelerate the improvement of domestic business environment to open a “Green Channel” for imports.