Xinhua Commentary: China’s promise and practice of opening-up

by Jiang Li- Xinhua/ Shanghai/

The China International Import Expo (CIIE), hailed as “an innovation in the history of global trade,” opened its third edition in this Chinese trade hub on Wednesday.

As the world’s first import-themed national-level expo, the CIIE embodies China’s solemn promise to opening-up, and epitomizes its firm commitment to supporting economic globalization and building an open world economy.

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on and the world economy is tottering along, China’s steadfast promise and practice of opening-up resonate with and buoy up all those dedicated to battling the coronavirus, boosting common development and building a brighter future for humanity.

Going from strength to strength since its birth, the CIIE demonstrates China’s unfaltering determination to open wider to the world no matter how the external situation changes.

The CIIE came into being a decade after the 2008 global financial crisis, as the world economic recovery was losing steam, trade protectionism and unilateralism were on the rise, and economic globalization was facing strong headwinds.

Global trade is an important engine for world economic growth. When the world economy was facing severe challenges, China, as the world’s largest trader of goods, voluntarily set up the CIIE as a platform for businesses around the world to further tap its enormous and growing market. According to a 2018 estimate, China was expected to import more than 30 trillion and 10 trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods and services respectively in 15 years.

Over the past two years, the CIIE has grown into a key channel for products worldwide to find their way into the Chinese market. Official statistics show that tentative deals worth about 57.83 billion and 71.13 billion dollars were reached at the previous two editions respectively.

Along with China’s concrete moves to foster a world-class business environment and deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the CIIE has not only testified to China’s unflinching commitment to ushering in a new round of high-level opening-up, but also manifested its sense of responsibility as a major country to share its development opportunities and shore up the world economy.

The opening of the latest CIIE also clears up the doubts about China’s opening posture arising from China’s efforts to form a new development pattern that features the domestic market as the mainstay with domestic and international markets reinforcing each other. The “dual-circulation” model does not mean that China will run its economy behind closed doors. Rather, China will only open its doors even wider.

“Our aim is to turn the Chinese market into a market for the world, a market shared by all, and a market accessible to all,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his keynote speech via video at the CIIE opening ceremony late Wednesday. “This way, we will be able to bring more positive energy to the global community.”

Rolled out as scheduled every year, the CIIE attests that China honors its promise of opening-up with concrete actions to share the dividends of its development with the rest of the world and bolster shared growth.

Over the past four decades, China has been striding resolutely forward along the path of reform and opening-up regardless of the vicissitudes on the global landscape. That path not only suits China’s development needs but accords with the trend of the times in this age of globalization.

As Xi said at the opening ceremony of the first CIIE, “openness has become a trademark of China.” The president pointed out that “China has grown by embracing the world, and the world has also benefited from China’s opening-up.”

China has for long been making relentless efforts to expand opening-up. It has set up a number of special economic zones (SEZs), including the Shenzhen SEZ, and established more than 20 pilot free trade zones across the country. It has been hosting a series of major trade events including the CIIE, the 63-year-old Canton Fair and the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS). And it has also enacted a new foreign investment law.

China unswervingly follows a win-win strategy of opening-up, through which the country can draw strength from the world and better benefit the world with its development, Xi said in his speech last month at a grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen SEZ, the forefront and a symbol of China’s opening-up.

Since the 2008 international financial meltdown, China’s imports have contributed one sixth of the global import increase and served as a key booster and anchor of the global economic recovery. A report released by China’s Ministry of Commerce earlier this year shows that China has been the world’s second largest import market for 11 consecutive years, accounting for more than 10 percent of the world’s total imports.

Meanwhile, China has now become the largest trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. It has signed 200 cooperation documents with 138 countries and 30 international organizations and carried out more than 2,000 cooperation projects within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Besides building closer economic and trade partnerships, which have brought tangible benefits to both China and its partners, China has also been working with other countries to address the imbalances and inequalities in global economic and social development, improve the world’s economic governance system, and make economic globalization more inclusive and balanced.

In her speech at the first CIIE, Christine Lagarde, then managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said the CIIE is a symbol of China’s efforts to build “a bridge to the world,” “a bridge to prosperity” and “a bridge to the future.”

Defying the multi-pronged onslaught of COVID-19, the CIIE not only showcases China’s substantial progress in epidemic containment, but offers much-needed hope for the world’s post-pandemic growth and development.

Upholding the principle of putting people’s lives first, China has put up a resolute and tough fight against the novel coronavirus and placed the epidemic under effective control, laying a solid foundation for the resumption of work and production as well as the return to normal life.

Accordingly, China’s economy is bouncing back, registering growth for two consecutive quarters. China, according to an IMF estimate in October, is expected to record an economic growth of 1.9 percent in 2020, emerging as the only major economy in the world that can inch back into positive territory this year.

Committed to opening-up and sharing its development opportunities, China has in recent months held multiple large fairs, including the 2020 CIFTIS in Beijing, to reanimate global trade and help pull the world economy out of the COVID-19 crater. In doing that, China has also accumulated valuable experience in organizing offline events amid regular epidemic control measures.

To ensure the public health of the ongoing CIIE, such rigorous measures have been put in place as complete nucleic acid testing, stringent inspection and quarantine procedures, and standardized sampling of imported cold-chain food. Since February, the organizers have also introduced “cloud registration,” “cloud signing” and “cloud presentation” to better serve exhibitors during the pandemic.

Thanks to the safety guarantee and the prospect of new business opportunities, enterprises worldwide have exhibited unprecedented enthusiasm for and confidence in the latest expo. According to the organizers, the exhibition area this year far exceeds that of the previous edition.

Particularly, to meet the soaring needs of public health equipment and solutions, the CIIE has also designated a special subsection to public health and epidemic prevention this year, so that more than 300 exhibitors can introduce their masks, protective gears, test reagents, ECMO devices and breathing machines to customers both in China and around the world.

In today’s world, where the international division of labor has intertwined different economies into complex global supply chains and value chains, the development trajectories of countries across the world have become closely interdependent like never before.

And the COVID-19 pandemic, as Xi noted at the general debate of the 75th UN General Assembly in September, “reminds us that economic globalization is an indisputable reality and a historical trend.” “Burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich in the face of economic globalization or trying to fight it with Don Quixote’s lance goes against the trend of history,” he added.

With an open mind and a dream for development, entrepreneurs from all corners of the globe are gathering in the four-leaf clover-shaped National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, yearning for luck and success in the world’s most populous consumer market.

As long as all countries stand on the right side of history and work together to safeguard free trade and the multilateral trading system, foster an innovative and inclusive world economy and build a community with a shared future for mankind, forging a better future for all will not be a matter of luck, but just a matter of time.