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Pursuing the Path of Openness and Building Strength Through Cooperation

By Zhong Shan Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2021-01-14

On the evening of November 4, 2020, the opening ceremony of the Third China International Import Expo (CIIE) was held in Shanghai, with President Xi Jinping delivering a keynote address.

The world today is experiencing profound changes of a kind unseen in a century. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of these changes, and the world is confronted with much greater instability and uncertainty. Global openness and cooperation are at a crossroads, and the question now is how to proceed. President Xi's brilliant speech focused on the challenges that the world is facing, addressed the biting questions of our times, and proposed measures for opening up. It has thus resonated with the world, and is helping to build greater international consensus.

Putting forward Chinese solutions for responding to the global spread of the virus 

In his address, President Xi said that we must join hands to face risks and challenges together, boost cooperation and communication, and expand openness. The Chinese proposal of mutual opening up featuring shared benefits, shared responsibilities, and shared governance aims to bring together positivity through global unity and cooperation for upholding the philosophy of putting people first and promoting equal consultation, common responsibilities, and shared benefits; it aims to bring together positivity through greater global openness for pursuing the path of peaceful, open, and cooperative development and making a larger pie of shared economic interests for the world; and it aims to bring together positivity through economic globalization for upholding mutually beneficial cooperation and fostering awareness that we are part of a community in which our fates are intertwined.

Demonstrating China's sense of responsibility by committing to the expansion of opening up across the board

In his address, President Xi noted that China has opened up at a faster pace this year despite the effects of the pandemic, and introduced four major measures for all-round expansion of opening up. This year, with the virus spreading around the globe, China has had to contend with a long list of challenges to successfully host the Third CIIE, further demonstrating China's sense of responsibility and determination to follow through. The facts have shown that China is a trustworthy nation, which is committed to the principles of opening up and mutually beneficial cooperation and acts in a manner consistent with its pledge to open up; that China is an open nation, which never slows its pace in pursuing higher levels of openness and will only open its doors more widely; and that China is a responsible nation, which leverages the advantages of its vast market, spur international cooperation, and bring about mutual benefit in the process of integrating with the global economy.


The south plaza of the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), venue for the China International Import Expo, October 31, 2020. With the pandemic not yet fully contained internationally, the Third CIIE was successfully held on schedule in Shanghai, demonstrating China's sincere desire to share opportunities from its market with the world and push forward global economic recovery. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE CHINA INTERNATIONAL IMPORT EXPO  BUREAU

Sharing China's opportunities by promoting open economic flows

In his address, President Xi said that China's new paradigm of development is by no means a closed domestic loop; it is rather a dual-engine dynamic composed of more open domestic and international flows. Furthermore, this dynamic is not just a necessity for China's own development; it will better benefit people all around the world. At the Fifth Plenary Session of the CPC 19th Central Committee, it was stressed that in continuing to pursue opening up across more sectors and in a more thorough fashion, we must focus on better utilizing domestic and international markets and resources, link China more closely with other countries through common interests, tighten connections between the domestic and international spheres, and ensure that factors flow more freely and that there is more robust drive from innovation.


A visitor learns about a singlet oxyhydrogen ventilator debuted at the Third CIIE, November 7, 2020. The public health and epidemic prevention section of the exhibition displayed advanced products and technologies in the field from around the world, establishing a platform for cooperation and exchange on international efforts to fight the virus. PHOTO BY CNS REPORTER YIN LIQIN

At the opening ceremony of the Third CIIE, President Xi offered an overarching view on the progress of human development, and discussed understanding change from historical and big-picture perspectives, helping to shape it from a participant's perspective, and guiding it from a civilizational perspective. In doing so, he pointed the way forward for opening up to a higher level in the new era. This speech represents the latest achievement of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and echoes the call of the times to build an open world economy and a global community with a shared future. It is a signal of China's desire to pursue all-round expansion of opening up and a brighter future for the world, and has injected a boost of positivity into economic globalization, multilateralism, and international cooperation against Covid-19.

The CIIE was personally planned, introduced, arranged, and promoted by President Xi. It is the world's first national-level exhibition centered on the theme of imports, and represents a milestone in China's pursuit of high-level opening up in the new era. Over three years of development, the CIIE has grown in size, improved in quality, and built up greater international influence, earning it a reputation as one of the world's finest exhibitions. This year, the sudden shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously impacted countries around the world and caused grave damage to the world economy, with many large international exhibitions either postponed or cancelled. However, thanks to the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, the Third CIIE was held on schedule and to high standards of quality under the precondition of ensuring safety through the implementation of epidemic control measures. The result was a safe, impressive, and fruitful global trade event that further demonstrated the CIIE's value as an international public good and a vehicle for high-quality development.

CIIE: a safe event

The Third CIIE made safety the top priority through anti-epidemic measures. By fully leveraging China's institutional strengths, a new approach to safely holding exhibitions with routine control measures in place was successfully pioneered.

Strengthening institutional guarantees. Working mechanisms were refined, while the overall containment strategy of preventing inbound cases and a domestic resurgence was implemented. A working group for epidemic control with clearly defined responsibilities and tasks was established at the outset. Rigorous plans were formulated to ensure that epidemic control  requirements were followed in all areas and at all stages, while an overall plan and additional special arrangements such as a "fast track" plan were also made. All parties involved made concerted efforts to ensure effective epidemic control at ports of entry, meticulously arranged various publicity activities, and saw that every trading group earnestly fulfilled their obligations in epidemic control. They worked as a team and took the strictest precautions, setting up four lines of control at the border, city, district, and venue levels in order to ensure that everything was absolutely safe.

Implementing targeted, science-based measures. Comprehensive, blind spot-free control was enforced, focusing on the three main subjects of people, goods, and the venue. Participants were closely tracked at six key points, namely as they came into the city, arrived at their accommodations, were transferred to the venue, entered the exhibition hall, entered activity areas, and passed monitoring stations. Meanwhile, hermetic management, origin tracing, nucleic acid testing, pre-admittance checks, and cleaning and disinfection were carried out thoroughly and exhaustively to ensure that participants, exhibit items, the venue, and activities were all properly controlled. High-tech anti-epidemic measures were adopted, information such as mobile health codes, proof of appointment, valid results of nucleic acid tests performed within the last seven days, and 14-day health self-assessments were collected in advance, and 100% completion of health declarations, temperature checks, and nucleic acid tests was guaranteed to make entry into the venue a smooth process and to ensure full traceability and rigorous epidemic control at every stage.

Prioritizing key aspects of prevention and control. The number of people coming from outside the country to participate in the exhibition was dramatically lower this year. Among participants from foreign enterprises, 98% were foreign persons or employees of Chinese subsidiaries that had been in China for more than 14 days, while 2% were representatives from foreign embassies and consulates or partnered organizations. The number of domestic participants was reduced, the exhibition was closed to the public, and associated activities were cut down to a third or less of the scale of previous years. In addition, a staggered time-slot system for visiting the exhibition was put in place, and occupancy was kept under 30% of the venue's maximum capacity, with no more than 80,000 people entering each day. On-site safeguards were also well established, with more than 200 specific and general emergency drills performed ahead of time and full disinfection of the venue, including disinfecting the exhibit items 2,392 times. These efforts ensured that there were no incidents of disease, no infections, and no accidents.

CIIE: an impressive event

The Third Import Expo put the strengths of China's vast market on full display. It was higher in quality, facilitated greater cultural exchange, and garnered an enthusiastic international response, demonstrating the enormous appeal of the Chinese market.

Even with the epidemic, getting a booth at the exhibition was still very competitive. Surmounting the difficulties posed by the virus, companies from 124 countries and regions jumped at the chance to participate in the exhibition. All of the member countries of the G20, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had companies that took part, while dozens of leading enterprises signed on for the next three exhibitions. Enthusiasm ran high among participating companies. The total area for displays was close to 360,000 square meters, 60,000 more than the first CIIE and 30,000 more than the second, and the number of people participating was basically the same as last year. In an effort to overcome the impact of the pandemic, many companies shipped exhibit items months in advance and worked hard to keep up the quality of their displays, hoping to seize this opportunity to expand their reach.

There were numerous new items making their global debut. A total of 411 examples of new products, new technologies, and new services were displayed at the Third CIIE, and for 73 of these it was their global debut. Included among the highlights were the world's first dry fiber recycled papermaking system, an inflatable kayak that can be folded down to the size of a backpack, a remote command center for intensive care units equipped with the best smart technology, production facility with advanced AI, and a fully automated warehouse system. The world's ten largest industrial electronics companies, six largest construction machinery companies, seven largest automotive companies, and four largest accounting firms all fulfilled their commitment to attend the event. 

The exhibition was held through an innovative combination of online and offline arrangements. The opening ceremony of the Third CIIE was carried out both virtually and in person. President Xi delivered the keynote address, with 231 officials of ministerial rank or higher from 145 countries and 110 representatives from Fortune 500 companies and international think tanks attending the ceremony online, while 69 China-based diplomatic envoys and representatives of international organizations attended in person. Products and services in the enterprise exhibition were mainly displayed in person, while 5G technology was utilized to provide fast and effective online services. New methods were incorporated such as online registration, contract signing, and roadshows. New approaches such as simultaneous canvassing and matchmaking were introduced for the first time, allowing global companies to communicate "screen to screen" and speeding up the work of connecting exhibitors with buyers.

The anti-epidemic section of the exhibition provided a boost for international cooperation against the virus. The section for medical equipment and healthcare products covered a total area of 69,000 square meters, with 75 Fortune 500 and industry leading companies taking part. The world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies and top 14 medical equipment companies all participated. The newly-added public health and epidemic prevention section was expanded to 11,000 square meters from the originally-planned 2,000, with nearly 40 Fortune 500 and industry leading companies present. A large number of advanced technologies and hot products for epidemic prevention took the spotlight, such as the world's first next-gen ECMO, a five-minute nucleic acid testing system, a fever clinic solution, and a smart Covid-19 analysis platform based on CT imaging.


Traditional Iranian handicrafts on display at the Persian culture showcase in the consumer goods section of the Third CIIE, November 7, 2020. Through three years of development, the CIIE has turned display items into merchandise for sale, turned exhibitors into investors, facilitated the exchange of creative ideas, and linked China with the world. It has thus become a major platform for international procurement, investment promotion, cultural exchange, and open cooperation, and an international public good shared by the world. PHOTO BY CNS REPORTER HOU YU

There was a wide array of cultural exchange activities. Through flexible and varied mediums, the Third CIIE arranged 101 associated activities that were rich and diverse in nature. There were 29 events held on the interpretation of policies, 10 on investment promotion, and 13 for research announcements, all of which yielded positive results. The cultural exchange element of the CIIE was enhanced, with a meticulously planned show on China's intangible cultural heritage and displays and interactive experiences for 81 different time-honored Chinese brands. Moreover, a special display on 12 national pilot pedestrian streets was added, as well as displays on "China tourism" and " local image" from over 20 provincial-level governments, introducing the bounty of Chinese culture to the world. Italy brought 55 items of global cultural heritage for display, while Russia, Pakistan, and some other countries held themed online events to promote their nations.

CIIE: a fruitful event

The role of the Third CIIE as a platform for international procurement, investment promotion, cultural exchange, and open cooperation was consistently amplified, providing new support for pursuing high-quality development and a new economic dynamic, and contributing China's strength for building an open world economy and a global community with a shared future.

The scope of the deals made exceeded expectations. A total of 39 domestic trading groups were formed and close to 400,000 buyers were registered, of which more than 2,200 each had an annual business volume of over US$ 1 billion. In addition, there were nearly 1,400 professional buyers each with an annual import volume of US$ 100 million or more. The total value of intended deals made through the Third CIIE reached US$ 72.62 billion, 2.1% higher than the Second CIIE. For the third year running, tentative deals for key exhibit items such as milling machines were made before the start of the exhibition. Through its combination of virtual and in-person mediums, the Third CIIE became the largest international exhibition attended by the most countries this year, demonstrating its powerful appeal as an international public platform.

The event produced greater interconnectedness as a comprehensive exhibition. Thanks to the platform provided by the CIIE, more and more exhibit items have become merchandise for sale while exhibitors have turned into investors. This has helped keep the fundamentals of foreign trade and investment stable. The first two CIIEs facilitated 319 new or additional foreign investment projects worth roughly US$15 billion, and a large number of projects aimed at the Chinese market were launched. The Third CIIE stuck to the objective of holding a comprehensive and professionally run exhibition. The six main exhibit areas worked in coordination and offered support to each other, demonstrating stronger interconnection. For example, companies in the trade in services section provided comprehensive solutions to companies in other sections with a view to forming a positive ecosystem at the exhibition. A government-business dialogue platform was also established to find areas in which the government and the market could work together. Local governments worked with diligence and precision to attract business, enthusiastically promoting themselves to companies from around the world. Foreign-invested enterprises and local government departments agreed to conduct strategic cooperation in several specialized fields, creating many opportunities for development.

The exhibition was effective as a portal between internal and external  economic flows. From the standpoint of serving the flows of the domestic economy, concentrating superior products from around the world, top-quality brands, and innovative resources in China, the CIIE has improved domestic supply and aided in the upgrading of consumption. The consumer goods section of the exhibition was expanded from 40,000 square meters in the first year to 90,000 square meters this year, showing that companies were drawn to China's vast market like a magnet. From popular favorites like avocados and plant-based meat substitutes to cutting edge examples like automated driving systems and a miraculous non-invasive solution for treating tumors, the new products, technologies, and services that were on display are not only capable of satisfying people's desire for a better life, but can also help propel industrial upgrading and high-quality development in China. From the standpoint of driving international economic flows, the CIIE has attracted a constant stream of international goods and factors into China, promoted cooperation and exchange between countries, and helped companies from around the world expand into the Chinese market and the global market and enjoy more opportunities.

The exhibition further exerted its role as a global public good. Dignitaries from numerous countries attended the Third CIIE's online opening ceremony, echoing the call to uphold the multilateral trading system, refine the rules for global economic governance, and drive forward an open world economy. As an important pillar of support for the Belt and Road Initiative, the CIIE has demonstrated more prominent effects as a platform for open cooperation. More and more specialty products from developing countries such as South Sudanese handicrafts, Panamanian pineapples, and Rwandan chili peppers have taken advantage of the express lane provided by the exhibition to move into China's vast market. Meanwhile, the newly added public health and epidemic prevention section not only displayed the newest international anti-epidemic technologies and products and promoted the stable development of global industrial and supply chains for goods used to fight epidemics, it also boosted awareness of the need for the world to unite and cooperate so that we can beat this pandemic, and for us to work together to build a global community of health.

The success of the Third CIIE has proven the exhibition's contemporary value, and lived up to the overall requirement put forward by President Xi to organize the event in such a manner so that it is high-quality, effective, and gets better and better over time. It has also fully demonstrated the distinct strengths of the leadership of the CPC and the Chinese socialist system, and shown the appeal of China's powerful market and vigorous development. Through concrete actions, China has proven that the shadow of the pandemic cannot block out the light of openness and cooperation, and that neither protectionism nor unilateralism can stem the great tide of globalization. China's market is in the process of becoming the word's market, shared for the benefit of all.

At present, China's internal and external environments are undergoing complex and profound changes, and the world is entering a stage of turbulent transformation. Adopting a broad historical perspective on all-round efforts to bring about the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and on the changes of a magnitude rarely seen that are taking place in the world, the Fifth Plenary Session of the CPC 19th Central Committee put forward strategic and systematic plans for implementing the new development philosophy, promoting high-quality development, and establishing a new development dynamic more quickly. At the Third CIIE, President Xi put further emphasis on the ideal of mutual openness, and put forward major measures for further opening up, facilitating innovative development of foreign trade, continuing optimization of the business environment, and deepening bilateral, multilateral, and regional cooperation. His proposals built upon the spirit of his important remarks at a series of   events including the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, and the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the development and opening up of Pudong New Area, and expressed China's firm commitment and confidence with regard to all-round opening up. We must continue to follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, uphold our belief in openness, cooperation, unity, and mutual benefit, and pursue all-round expansion of opening up with unswerving commitment, thus making due contributions to the launch of a new journey toward building a fully modern socialist country.

Zhong Shan was Minister of Commerce and Secretary of the Ministry's CPC Leadership Group.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 22, 2020)