Written by Huang Yunyun / Translated by Chen Zhiying
The COVID-19 in 2020 has brought a heavy blow to the global exhibition industry. Thousands of exhibitions expected to hold in China were suspended, especially outbound exhibitions. This situation inevitably caused worries among people. But Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, “China will unswervingly promote opening-up. This policy will not and cannot be changed.” The remark made people rest assured.
The role of China-ASEAN Expo (hereinafter referred to as the CAEXPO) in promoting economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN will still be effective. “The Belt and Road” and “digital economy” will be key words for the 17th CAEXPO. At that time, higher-level, more diverse and innovative activities will be unveiled.
“Necessary exhibitions” can be held
Three major smoke-free industries recognized by the world are exhibition industry, tourism and real estate. It is generally believed that the exhibition industry has an inherent driving effect featuring 1:9. That is to say, if the income of a certain exhibition is “1”, then the income of corresponding industries such as hotel, transportation, catering and tourism is “9”.
According to the data of China Exhibition Economic Development Report 2019, 3,547 economic and trade exhibitions were held in China, with a total exhibition area of 130.48 million square meters, and the market scale continued to rank first in the world. The direct economic output value exceeded RMB 700 billion yuan. Affected by the COVID-19 in 2020, the thriving exhibition industry stepped on the “speed bump”. From February to April 2020, there were nearly 3,500 domestic exhibitions affected by the epidemic in China, while the situation of outbound exhibitions would be even more severe. The outbreak of overseas epidemic has increased uncertainty for the recovery of China’s exhibition industry.
The Guidelines on Epidemic Prevention and Control issued on May 8, 2020 by the State Council of China has brought hopes to the exhibition industry, in which the saying that “all kinds of necessary meetings and exhibitions can be held” has provided policy support for accelerating the “restart” of the exhibition industry. On May 28, at the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress, Li Keqiang reiterated the basic national policy of “opening-up”, increasing the confidence of international exhibitions. “China will unswervingly promote opening-up. This policy will not and cannot be changed. We will continue to expand cooperation with the world and independently introduce more measures to expand the scale of opening up,” said Li Keqiang.
Great hopes have been placed on Nanning, the permanent venue of the CAEXPO. The Implementation Opinions of Nanning Municipal People’s Government on Further Promoting the High-Quality Development of the Exhibition Industry (hereinafter referred to as the Implementation Opinions) put forward that Nanning should be built into an international exhibition cluster area facing ASEAN, and an important meeting destination for China-ASEAN and central south and southwest regions. According to the Implementation Opinions, Nanning will give full play to the brand effect of the CAEXPO and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, guide the leading enterprises, industries and trade associations to improve the competitiveness of exhibition industry by deepening cross-border cooperation and innovating exhibition modes such as “Internet plus”, and support holding exhibitions in ASEAN and countries along the Belt and Road. Although the epidemic has not yet disappeared, the CAEXPO still bears the mission.
Focus on two key words and create several “firsts”
In the past 16 years, the CAEXPO has been serving the basic national policy of “opening-up”. The scope of the CAEXPO has expanded to RCEP and the Belt and Road from China-ASEAN. Since 2020 marks the Year of China-ASEAN Digital Economic Cooperation, the theme of the 17th CAEXPO has been determined as “Jointly Building the Belt and Road and Developing Digital Economy”, to build a cooperation platform for exhibitors with brand new attitudes.
Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been constantly enriching its connotation, “Promoting connectivity, openness and inclusiveness is the only way to deal with the global crisis and achieve long-term development. Jointly building international cooperation facing the Belt and Road can play a vital role.” It is reported that the CAEXPO will plan more high-level friendly exchange activities and build more diversified high-level dialogue platforms. Besides, countries and regions along the Belt and Road will be encouraged to join the CAEXPO and be invited to become specially invited cooperation partners. The CAEXPO also will promote the participation of their economic and trade delegations led by ministerial level officials and hold special economic and trade exchanges, to display dominant and characteristic commodities and enhance the effectiveness of the CAEXPO.
On June 12, 2020, the opening ceremony of the Year of China-ASEAN Digital Economic Cooperation was held online. Li Keqiang said in the congratulatory letter that he hoped the two sides can “focus on win-win cooperation, cultivate more new growth points of cooperation in the fields of smart city, artificial intelligence, big data and other industries, create more powerful new momentum for economic and social development of both sides, and inject new vitality into the realization of lasting stability and prosperity in the region”.
The CAEXPO will closely follow the hot spots of cooperation, take the high-quality development led by digital economy and the industrial transformation and upgrading promoted by the new generation of information technology as its goal, focus on “innovation and cooperation”, and pay more attention to the scientific and technological content and the added value of exhibits. In the 17th CAEXPO, targeted arrangements will be made in terms of the content of exhibitions, and a series of activities will be planned to promote the achievements of China-ASEAN digital economic cooperation.
Under the theme of “Jointly Building the Belt and Road and Developing Digital Economy”, the CAEXPO will create several “firsts” as its highlights. First, the RCEP exhibition area will be set up for the first time.
In June 22, 2020, the trade ministers of the 15 member countries of RCEP said in a statement that the epidemic increased the importance of signing the agreement. Since it would show the strong support for multilateral trade system, regional integration and regional economic development. On June 23, the 15 member states held a ministerial video conference and unanimously decided to work hard to promote the signing of the agreement within the year. If the agreement is signed successfully, RCEP countries will be invited to participate in the CAEXPO, and exchange activities for RCEP countries will be held to display investment information and characteristic commodities from Japan, South Korea, Australia and other countries in special forms.
Second, the first cross-border E-commerce exhibition area will be set up in the CAEXPO. Cross-border E-commerce platforms and retailers from China, ASEAN and countries outside the region will be invited, with a focus on cross-border E-commerce services and imported goods.
Since 2010, express companies like SF, Zhongtong, Baishi and Yuantong have successively entered the ASEAN market. In addition to bringing “China speed” to the local express industry, we can also see the feasibility of cross-border E-commerce development between China and ASEAN. On June 18, 2020, Jingdong Indonesia, a subsidiary of Jingdong group, ushered in the first “618 Shopping Festival” with local characteristics. This not only shows the great potential of “digital economy”, but also marks a good start for the Year of China-ASEAN Digital Economic Cooperation.
According to the CAEXPO Secretariat, the preparatory work for the CAEXPO is in progress. The co-organizers of ASEAN countries have said that they will continue to book an entire exhibition hall or increase the number of booth in the CAEXPO. Countries outside the region, such as South Korea and Poland, will continue to participate in it. According to statistics, the number of foreign exhibitions is expected to exceed 1,700, including nearly 1,500 for ASEAN countries.
The CAEXPO has yielded fruitful results in the past 16 years. It has promoted the signing of more than 4,000 investment projects, involving many fields such as port cooperation, shipping construction, E-commerce, modern agriculture, trade and logistics, etc., and promoted the implementation of a number of major projects such as China-ASEAN Information Port and China-ASEAN Entrepreneurs Association, ensuring enterprises of both sides truly enjoy the dividends of CAFTA and the Belt and Road. It is believed that when hibiscus is in full blossom, China-ASEAN cooperation will make even greater achievements.
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama