Twenty-first Century "maritime Silk Road" and the international communication platform

Stories Between CAEXPO and Its “Loa Yau”

2022-05-05 15:16:20   By:China-ASEAN    Hits:

Written by Guan Qiuyun / Translated by Chen Zhiying

In the dialect of Guangdong and Guangxi (Cantonese), “loa yau” means good friends who have known each other for many years.

From serving the construction of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) and boosting the development of an upgraded CAFTA to promoting the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative in ASEAN countries and the entry into force of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, over the 18 years, the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) has witnessed China-ASEAN relations to gradually become the most successful and dynamic ones in the Asia-Pacific region. Stories between the CAEXPO and its “loa yau” who helped each other succeed were also recorded. From getting acquainted to being by each other’s side, they are each other’s most precious old friends.

第18届东博会成果丰硕(摄影 黄华敏)
The 18th CAEXPO achieved fruitful results (Source: Huang Huamin)

Partners with political mutual trust

“CAEXPO is a successful event. It builds a solid bridge for ASEAN and China to carry out cooperation in various fields. In the future when the sea, land, and air transportation become more convenient, I believe more Thai businessmen will come to Guangxi and China to trade and invest,” said H.E. Mr. Atthayut Srisamut, Ambassador of Thailand to China in the 18th CAEXPO. After making the second personal visit, he found  more businessmen from other parts of the world showed up, exhibition halls and featured products more diverse, cooperation in industry and trade expanded, high-level dialogues between government and business community deepened, and space for bilateral cooperation between China and ASEAN broadened.

However, seeing through the appearance, Atthayut found that something remains unchanged. “Mutual trust between ASEAN and China doesn’t change, neither does CAEXPO’s insistence in fostering solid political mutual trust.”

H.E. Mr. Atthayut Srisamut, Ambassador of Thailand to China, received interview in the 18th CAEXPO

For a long time, CAEXPO has been positioned as one of the major events for China and ASEAN to carry out political and diplomatic exchanges, for which it is held in a high standard and carries significant political and diplomatic meanings. As of the 18th CAEXPO, there were more than 100 Chinese and foreign leaders and over 3,400 guests of ministerial-level taking part in the event, sending strong and clear messages of supporting the CAEXPO and deepening the friendly relations between China and ASEAN.

As one of the old friends of the CAEXPO, H.E. Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, has visited Nanning, Guangxi, more than 10 times. During the 15th CAEXPO, he planted a tree that signifies the friendship between China and Cambodia with a Chinese representative at Liyuan Resort in Nanning. Every newly-sprout branch is the symbol of political mutual trust between both sides and each plump fruit witnesses the win-win cooperation between the two peoples. H.E. Mr. Hun Sen said: “One of the important reasons that I take part in the CAEXPO is Cambodia and China have established comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation.

Partners carrying out economic and trade cooperation

If anyone walks into the restaurant in the corner of Nanning Greenland Central Plaza, he will be surprised to find that there is such a Thai paradise hidden in the bustling downtown. Inside the restaurant, one can see wallpaper featuring Buddha, elephant pendants, Sompot Chong Kben, and herbal aromatherapy.

The person who opened the Thai restaurant is Chen Meini, a Thai girl who lived in Nanning for many years. “As the CAEXPO is continuously upgrading, cooperation in economy, trade, and logistics is much closer. Tea and spices from Thailand are constantly transported to Nanning. Many raw materials can be found here. I want to take Thai food and clothes as a bridge to connect China and Thailand,” said Chen Meini.

When it came to why she became bound up with Nanning, she smiled and told a story happened 12 years ago. In 2010, she studied Chinese in Guangxi as an international student. Having mastered both Thai and Chinese language, she signed up for translation work in the Thai Pavilion during the 7th CAEXPO, through which she also stepped into the field of China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation. In the exhibition, she noticed that many Chinese showed great interest in Thai cuisines such as thick soup sauce and lemongrass shrimp noodles. From then on, the dream seed of bringing a bite of Thailand to Chinese foodies was planted in her heart. The CAEXPO has since become the best place for her to gain experience. After studying the market and knowing how to do marketing, her dreams took roots and sprouted, with four branches open in Nanning. She said, “The CAEXPO updates quickly. I will explore more new business opportunities from it.”

In the Cambodia pavilion of the 18th CAEXPO, Cambodian businessman Leun Ba Ling’s 16 booths displaying featured products such as coconut sugar, rice, wood carving, and Krama were eye-catching. 11 years ago when he and his team first came to Nanning, they only had two booths. He said, “With the help of the CAEXPO, we set up companies in Nanning and the scale is becoming larger and larger. Now, with the entry into force of the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement, economic and trade cooperation between the two sides will become even closer.” In 2021, Leun Ba Ling’s Jian’an Wholesale Foreign Trade Company successfully applied for the China-ASEAN Free Trade Certificate of Origin, for which he can now enjoy zero tariff and becomes the direct beneficiary of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.

Cambodian businessman Leun Ba Ling broungt authentic jasmine rice to Guangxi people

The public’s enthusiasm for the offline CAEXPO was high. The corresponding online CAEXPO also attracted lots of attention. When the offline CAEXPO was concluded, the online one continued to provide good services for China and ASEAN businessmen.

At 7 a.m. in Pingxiang, Guangxi, Low Tong Gui, General Manager of Malaysia Hang Loong Fruit Company was busy arranging product packaging with factories, while browsing exhibitor and product information in the online CAEXPO. Through this platform, buyer and seller are able to make a deal once both sides have confirmed relevant details without on-site presence. He said, “In the post-pandemic era, strengthening cooperation in digital economy between China and ASEAN will benefit more SMEs like us.” The online CAEXPO opening all-year-round provides a display platform for all parties. No one wants to be left behind in the new round of marketing. 

All these only represent in miniature how ASEAN businessmen gaining benefits from the online CAEXPO. The platform, since its operation, has completed the video promotion of more than 32 ASEAN enterprises and institutions located in Nanning through livestreaming, cross-border e-commerce transactions, VR product display, and intelligent exhibition assistants, with an online turnover exceeding US$ 1.1 billion.

With the signing of the RCEP, China and ASEAN have ushered in a new era of economic and trade cooperation. The 18th CAEXPO innovated the exhibition, explored more functions of the online platform, invited enterprises from RCEP member states to participate in, and held economic and trade events themed on RCEP many times. Now, the circle of friends has expanded to Korea, Japan, and Australia and will reach farther in the future.

Partners with cultural exchanges

Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations, while affinity lies in mutual understanding between the people. The tree of China-ASEAN relations cannot grow luxuriant without the soil of people-to-people exchanges. The CAEXPO keeps up with the times, accelerates to build itself an upgraded international platform, and promotes people-to-people exchanges in wider fields and at deeper levels, providing cultural nutrients for and serving as the cornerstone of political mutual trust and economic and trade cooperation between the two sides.

“Although being a volunteer is hard, I still feel proud rather than tired.” According to Nguyen Tae Ying, a Vietnamese student majoring in international business at Guangxi University for Nationalities, when she heard the news that the 18th CAEXPO was recruiting volunteers, she registered immediately and undertook the work of guiding guests in the exhibition hall, keeping order, and translating. In the later work, she was never absent.

Relevant people in the CAEXPO Secretariat said: “Half of the volunteers we recruite every year are foreigners. They have made an irreplaceable contribution to the reception of the CAEXPO and China-ASEAN cultural exchanges.”

Like Nguyen Tae Ying, there are many ASEAN students from Guangxi University, Guangxi Normal University, and Guangxi Police College who registered to become a volunteer in the CAEXPO. They not only made new friends in China but also witnessed the in-depth cooperation between Guangxi and ASEAN in education in just a few years during their study in China.

As the venue of the CAEXPO, Guangxi gave full play to its advantages in people-to-people exchanges and took measures such as cooperating to run schools,  inviting scholars and professors to make lectures, and providing scholarships to promote two-way student exchanges. As of the end of June 2021, Guangxi has established cooperation with nearly 200 universities and colleges in ASEAN countries, with 16,000 ASEAN students coming to study in Guangxi, almost equivalent to 1/5 of the number of ASEAN students studying in China.

“Hi, welcome to Myanmar Radio and Television. Here is the news. The 16th CAEXPO...” In the large TV relay car in front of the Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Center, Wa Wa Wein Tin, a hostess, was broadcasting in fluent Burmese. She said the CAEXPO trip made her have a deeper understanding of the China-Myanmar friendship. Media of China and ASEAN countries can totally rely on the platform to tell more cooperation stories. 

Except her, there are many live streamers and reporters from national radio and television stations of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, Voice of Vietnam, and Vietnam Quang Ninh Media Center focusing on bilateral friendship and development during the CAEXPO. They pushed this grand event to greater heat and transmitted to the world the harmonious voice of China-ASEAN cooperation.

In cultural industry cooperation, the CAEXPO has created a series of quality brands such as China-ASEAN Cultural Forum, China-ASEAN (Nanning) Theatre Week, and the CAEXPO Cartoon & Animation Game Exhibition. With more cultural products created between China and ASEAN, more experts, drama stars, and art groups from ASEAN countries have become the envoy to promote cultural exchanges between the two sides.

It is expected that an upgraded CAEXPO will unleash more policy benefits,  Nanning, as the permanent venue of which, will gather greater cooperation opportunities. We look forward to attracting more new friends to the CAEXPO, making it a real international grand event supported by 11 countries, participated by 1.9 billion people, and cheered by 7 billion people around the world.

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