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Harnessing physical space to spur exports

By ZHONG NAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-01-09 08:58
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An employee (right) introduces a forklift to visitors during the China Homelife Dubai 2022, a trade fair that provides a sourcing platform for Chinese goods, held in Dubai, the UAE, in December. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese firms travel far and wide to retain clients, win new business orders, secure growth

COVID-19 pandemic has made business difficult for Chinese exporters since early 2020. But, displaying resilience and imagination, they are defying physical realm constraints and even chartering flights to travel to all parts of the globe, in order to attend trade shows, build rapport with overseas buyers, retain existing clients and win new business orders. This, in turn, is helping them to embrace customized production, upgrade technologies and ensure growth amid an overall downturn, trade experts said.

This is a far cry from the past when Chinese export-oriented companies used to rely on sales teams, foreign trade agencies and cross-border e-commerce channels to land business orders. Back then, they exported products ranging from clothing and furniture to electric vehicles and construction machinery.

Of course, they still do all that, but a lot has changed since then, and a lot more will change in the coming years, demonstrating that China's trade is critical to the health of the global economy and its recovery from the ravages of the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, trade experts said.

Amid faltering global trade and softening demand for various goods, owners and sales heads of Chinese export-oriented companies in provinces like Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian and Sichuan have turned jet-setters, participating in business events such as the Asia Fashion Fair 2022 Tokyo, the Food Ingredients Europe 2022 in Paris and the China Homelife Dubai 2022. They have been carrying tons of samples, USB flash drives and product brochures to global locations to retain existing clients and secure more business orders.

For instance, Suzhou, an export powerhouse in East China's Jiangsu province, has organized several batches of business groups to visit Japan, France and Germany to secure orders since November. Its delegations to Japan met more than 200 local business clients and sealed 1 billion yuan ($145.4 million) worth of deals during their tours.

Jiaxing in Zhejiang province also confirmed that more than 80 groups of exhibitors will participate in various overseas trade exhibitions by the end of 2023. Five groups had already traveled to overseas destinations in December last year, according to the city government.

The Beijing-based China Council for the Promotion of International Trade announced in December that it had approved 15 out of 35 planned overseas economic and trade exhibition projects to boost exports. These 15 events were scheduled to be held between November last year and February in eight countries, including Germany, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

As for individual companies, rather than wait for the overseas orders to flow in, Rollmax Shutter Component Co Ltd, a Ningbo, Zhejiang province-based roller shutter component manufacturer, secured nearly $1 million worth of orders via a trip by Ding Yandong, its president, to the UAE in early December.

"Some of these deals were sealed on the spot, and some will be further discussed in the coming days after the meetings. The result has exceeded my pre-departure expectations indeed," he said.

This was not the first time that Ding had boarded a chartered flight to a foreign country last year. As part of a tour organized by Ningbo's municipal government in July, he visited Hungary with a group of businesspeople.

"The reason was, a key Hungarian customer wanted to change the supplier and we failed to communicate properly with him through many phone calls and e-mails. So, I decided to fly there to talk with him face-to-face and succeeded in retaining the order," he said. The client's order for door and window accessories had already been partly fulfilled by way of shipment of two containers in September, and the rest of the orders were fulfilled by the end of December.

Sharing a similar experience, Wei Guowen, chairman of Zhejiang Baolinda Toy Manufacturing Co Ltd, a Ningbo-based toymaker, recalled that after he introduced a product, which sold well at domestic market, in Italy, local customers there immediately signed contracts and placed orders.

"Our European customers prefer to see, touch and feel products before placing orders," he said. "Trips to Europe and the United States, which are our key export markets, certainly helped us to get a clear picture of what local consumers want and gain some insights in terms of product design and functions."

Overseas visits combined with industrial upgrade have not only helped expand Ningbo-based exporters' overseas footprint, but boosted the city's foreign trade volume by 7 percent year-on-year to 1.16 trillion yuan between January and November last year, according to Ningbo Customs, a local unit of the General Administration of Customs.

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