The 127th China Import and Export Fair, or Canton Fair, kicked off online Monday, a first for the decades-old trade fair, in south China’s Guangdong Province.
As a major global trade event so far this year, the 10-day online fair has attracted around 25,000 enterprises and hundreds of thousands of global buyers, with 1.8 million products exhibited.
“Hosting the online Canton Fair highlights China’s unswerving resolve and confidence in advancing foreign trade and opening-up,” said Bai Ming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
With the online exhibition, the Canton Fair is expected to showcase the country’s production resumption progress, inject impetus into global trade and help with the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts.
SUMEC Group Corporation, based in Jiangsu Province, has participated in the Canton Fair for 42 consecutive years and developed from a simple foreign trade enterprise to a manufacturing service group focusing on trade and services, engineering contracting and investment and development.
“Thanks to the strong measures taken by the government against the epidemic, we fully resumed work in March,” said Yang Yongqing, chairman of the company.
According to Yang, the imports and exports of SUMEC rose by 5.7 percent year on year in the first five months despite downward economic pressure.
Foreign trade growth has been reported in a number of Chinese provincial-level regions. China’s exports rose by 1.4 percent year on year in yuan terms to 1.46 trillion yuan (about 206 billion U.S. dollars) in May, official data showed.
In the first five months, the foreign trade of goods dropped by 4.9 percent year on year to 11.54 trillion yuan, the same drop as during the January-April period.
For many exhibitors, the recovering Chinese economy provides the online Canton Fair with a solid foundation and the internationally recognized trade event is still an important platform for Chinese enterprises to stabilize orders, expand the market and maintain shares.
According to Ye Hua, an official with the Foreign Trade Division of the Commerce Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality, the Shenzhen trade delegation was allocated 2,808 virtual booths at the online fair, involving 1,112 companies.
“Overall, the number of booths is in short supply,” Ye said.
The online exhibition not only increases the confidence of overseas buyers in the supply chain stability, but also provides support for the global resumption of work and production.
Guangdong Xinbao Electrical Appliances Holdings Co., Ltd., which has taken part in the fair for more than 20 years, brings 300 products to the online Canton Fair, with new products accounting for about 40 percent.
“We want to show that our company has the strength to guarantee production and innovation and we’ll do our part to stabilize the industrial chain,” said Zhang Yifei, director of the overseas marketing center of the company.
As the epidemic continues to spread around the world, many international exhibitions were canceled. But China decided to host its oldest and largest trade fair entirely online, a major innovation for global trade.
The accelerated layout of new infrastructure such as 5G, big data and the Internet of Things in China over the past few years has also enabled the fair to embrace the internet, Bai said.
The fair will provide around-the-clock services including online exhibitions, promotion, business docking and negotiations, according to Li Jinqi, director general of the China Foreign Trade Center.
As the fair’s technical service provider, tech giant Tencent adopted technical means including instant communication, online conferences and livestreaming to overcome barriers of time and space for participants.
“The online Canton Fair shows the comprehensive use of digital technology emerging in recent years,” the firm’s project leader Dong Kai said.
Xie Wei’en, chief operating officer of Guangzhou-based Light Magic Co., Ltd., has been leading a technical team to tailor online booths for a number of participating companies.
“The fair seems like a ‘cloud experiment’ with the participation of the whole society and the whole world. Its experience and shortcomings will become a new direction for us to promote new infrastructure,” Xie said.
Exhibitors are also seizing the opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation.
Shen Zhen Mondial Technology Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of massagers, moved the livestreaming studio to its workshops to exhibit production lines 24 hours a day for buyers worldwide.
“This is an irresistible trend. We’ll focus more on online sales in the future,” said Chen Zixin, sales director of the company.
Midea Group, a leading Chinese home appliance manufacturer, started to change its business model and promoted digital transformation four years ago.
Fang Hongbo, chairman of Midea Group, said comprehensive digitization and intelligence have become the strategic focus of the company.
“We will also explore new possibilities for China’s intelligent manufacturing to go international through digitalization,” Fang said.
“The 10-day fair is not only crucial for China’s foreign trade, but also a rare technological experience and business exploration for the world,” said Zhang Jiong, vice president of the Guangdong Cross-border E-commerce Industry Association.