More than 200,000 foreign businessmen are expected to attend the ongoing 102nd China Import and Export Commodities Fair, at which deals for made-in-China clothes, shoes and toys are made for shipment across the globe.
This is not sewing machine tycoon Qiu Jibao's first trip to the fair. More than two decades ago, he climbed over a fence and snuck into the fair, which is commonly known as the Canton Fair, to sell his sewing machines to foreigners - and ended up being barred from regular entry as the owner of a small private factory.
However, in the ensuing years Qiu's factory developed into a world-famous one as it rode the wave of the country's reform and opening policies. Qiu was dubbed "king of sewing machines" for exporting $200-million worth of the machines.
"If you want to see an example of China's policy of reform and opening-up, come to the Canton Fair," Qiu said.
The fair was initiated in 1957 when China was in need of foreign currency to buy industrial equipment and materials from foreign countries. It was a key channel for promoting China's export trade until last April, when companies from overseas were invited to display their wares for the first time. Its name was changed from China Export Commodities Fair to China Import and Export Commodities Fair this year.
The opening of the fair's 102nd session on Monday coincided with the opening of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), a crucial event aiming to outline the roadmap of China's development in the years to come.
"The decision to begin reform and opening-up was vital to the destiny of contemporary China ... Reform and opening-up are the only way of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejuvenating the Chinese nation," CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the congress.
Hu's remarks were welcomed by delegates to the congress.
Xiao Yaqing, general manager of the Aluminum Corp of China, said his company was unknown to the world when it was founded, but has grown into the world's third-largest aluminum company and the fastest growing company in the global aluminum industry.
"I cannot imagine the fate of our company without the reform policy," said Xiao.
However, with thorny problems such as the deterioration of the environment and widening wealth gap looming on the horizon, it could be difficult to reform certain areas. The situation has left some people discussing the future of the policy, while some foreign observers were wondering if China would take a more conservative way.
There have also been academic disputes on the reform and opening-up policy.
The national leadership has been reiterating that the reform policy must be carried out unswervingly. Hu Jintao said at the congress "to stop or reverse reform and opening-up would only lead to a blind alley".
Reform and opening-up "accord with the aspirations of the Party membership and the people and keep up with the trend of the times.
The orientation and path of reform are entirely correct," Hu said.
Wang Yukai, a professor with the National School of Administration, said the reform policy is in focus because it is at a crucial stage.
"It is getting more and more difficult compared with three decades ago. The obstacles will not be overcome if we do not have a firm stance," Wang said.
"Resources, the environment, income disparity and social justice are among the issues that China needs to tackle to further advance reform and opening-up," he said.
The reform drive was launched at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1978. The late leader Deng Xiaoping was the "chief architect".
Between 1978 and last year, China's gross domestic product grew by an average annual rate of 9.7 percent and the country has developed into the world's fourth-largest economy.
The reform drive has been hailed by the World Bank as the largest poverty reduction campaign ever launched, particularly in the area of reducing rural poverty.
The number of extremely poor people in rural China had fallen from 250 million in 1978 to just over 20 million by the end of 2006.
(China Daily 10/19/2007 page7)