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Import event proves great platform for civil diplomacy

By XING YI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-19 09:59
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Decorative plants for the fourth China International Import Expo at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai on Oct 5, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The China International Import Expo has proved to be a great platform for civil diplomacy and can promote friendly exchanges among different peoples, said diplomats, scholars and businesspeople during a recent seminar in Shanghai.

"People trade goods and services at the expo, and at the same time, they exchange thoughts and cultures," said Chen Jing, president of the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

"The CIIE promotes friendly exchanges and helps forge more and closer people-to-people connections."

Chen Dongxiao, president of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, stressed on the importance of the CIIE as an in-person expo.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has made exchanges across countries more difficult. Although people can use the internet to host video meetings, the quality of such meetings is lower and it cannot replace face-to-face talks," Chen said.

"The pandemic, coupled with international political, economic, and security tensions, poses a grave challenge to the building of trust through communication," he said. "The CIIE, which has been held offline in the past three years, has played an irreplaceable role in increasing understanding among peoples."

Ma Fengmin, director of finance at the China International Import Bureau, said the CIIE, as a platform for international procurement and investment as well as cultural exchanges, has become a global public good that is warmly received by companies around the world.

Despite the pandemic, last year's expo saw an increase in both the exhibition scale and the volume of intended deals, which hit $72.6 billion, Ma said.

"The expo upheld the banner against trade protectionism and unilateralism, and injected confidence and vigor into the recovery of the world's economy," he added.

Michele Cecchi, consul general of Italy in Shanghai, said the CIIE reminded him of the Italian merchant Marco Polo, who centuries ago traveled along the Silk Road not only to pursue economic interests, but also to promote knowledge and friendship between the West and the East.

"Italy's strong participation in the CIIE is not only aimed at promoting trade in products and services, but also at contributing to the strengthening of the expo as a platform for building connectivity between people," said Cecchi.

"Exchanges between scholars, businessmen and innovators, and people-to-people diplomacy are the drivers of the long-standing friendship between Italy and China," he said, adding that a cultural exchange pavilion designed by Aldo Cibic, a famous Italian designer based in Shanghai, will be showcased at this year's expo along with three commercial pavilions that showcase Italy's expertise in biomedicine, green technology and jewelry.

Zhang Hao, deputy general manager of Shanghai Waigaoqiao Group, which has brought around 50 companies to the CIIE, said it will partner with the CIIE Bureau to organize an art and culture exhibition zone at the upcoming expo.

"In this zone which spans about 1,000 square meters, visitors will see art pieces from famous galleries and auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's from countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy," he said.

At the inaugural CIIE in 2018, expo organizers set up a hub to maximize the trickle-down benefits of the expo. Many exhibition centers that showcase products from the CIIE were also built in Shanghai and across China.

Xue Yingjie, general manager of the Greenland Global Commodity Trade Hub, said the hub has attracted around 180 companies and trade agencies from 76 countries, and enabled them to exhibit and sell their goods in 22 major Chinese cities.

He said the hub has helped one Afghan carpet trader receive orders for the products produced by 1,500 households in Afghanistan.

"We will open the first Afghan exhibition pavilion at this year's CIIE to promote Afghan handicraft such as carpets and bags," Xue said.

Jeffrey Lehman, chair of the board of governors of the American Chamber Shanghai, said, "People-to-people business transactions are perhaps the clearest example of win-win cooperation … serious commercial relationships involve trust, mutual commitment and flexibility."

Lehman said the best measure of the success of the CIIE is not the monetary value of deals secured at the expo, but the long-term people-to-people connections forged.

"The CIIE constructs a transnational community that improves lives on both sides of the national border," he said.

Xu Mingqi, vice-chairman of the Shanghai Center for International Economic Exchanges, said: "The CIIE, together with the Hongqiao International Economic Forum, provides spaces and opportunities for exchanges between foreign delegations, trade missions, businesspeople and think tanks. It will counter the misunderstandings and prejudices created by ideological confrontation and extreme populism."

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