By Jia Jinjing and Guan Zhaoyu Source: China Pictorial Published: 2018-12-06
The first China International Import Expo (CIIE) kicked off on November 5 in Shanghai with a keynote speech from Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony. Xi’s speech conveyed an important and inspiring message to the world: China remains steadfastly committed to expanding its opening up.
Five Major Measures to Ease Global Pressure
Trade protectionism has been on the rise around much of the world, leaving multilateral trade rules under threat. Uncertainty and instability still abound, which creates risks and challenges for global economic development. Against this backdrop, China organized the CIIE at just the right time. As President Xi pointed out in his speech, the CIIE is the world’s first import expo at the national level, marking an innovation in the history of global trade. It is an important move by China to pursue a new round of high-level opening up, and represents a major Chinese initiative to continue widening its domestic market for the rest of the world. It testifies to China’s consistent position supporting the multilateral trading system and promoting free trade. It is concrete action by China to advance an open world economy and support economic globalization.
In 2018 alone, China reduced tariffs several times. The country accelerated the reform of customs clearance facilitation and promulgated a number of policies to expand opening up. By the end of January 2018, China had already offered tariff exemptions to more than 8,000 kinds of imported goods. Cross-border e-commerce has further developed, and the account settlement procedure has been simplified. Furthermore, thanks to development and innovation in technology and digitization, global trade patterns are expected to evolve in a way that makes services even more tradeable.
As Xi mentioned in his speech at the CIIE, China will step up efforts in several ways to broaden its opening up. First, China will stimulate potential for increased imports. Second, China will continue to broaden market access. Third, China will foster a world-class business environment. Fourth, China will explore new horizons for opening up. Fifth, China will promote international cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels. These measures have helped calm nerves as global trade undergoes severe turbulence.
New Era for China’s Imports
When its reform and opening up began in 1978, China was a modest importer and a freshman student in the world trading system. After 40 years of development, China has become the world’s second-largest importer and developed into a key contributor to the global trade network from a mere participant.
In recent years, China’s per capita disposable income has increased steadily and the purchasing power of Chinese people has witnessed remarkable improvement. Per capita GDP of Chinese mainland residents averaged only 385 yuan (US$55) in 1978, and the figure soared to 59,660 yuan (US$8,583) in 2017. And now the country is undergoing a nationwide consumption upgrade. Expenditures related to livelihood have grown slowly while spending on development and leisure has made a big jump. Clearly, the Chinese market has a huge potential for imported consumer goods.
Since it proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, China has been expanding its circle of friends in trade. By the end of March 2018, China had signed a total of 16 free trade agreements with 24 countries and regions. The country is becoming an important trading partner for an increasing number of countries along the Belt and Road. In the future, China will continue to advance the Belt and Road Initiative through international cooperation in the spirit of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China will work with other participating countries on major projects, set up more trade promotion platforms and encourage more well-established and capable Chinese companies to invest in countries along the routes to enhance cooperation in various areas. By so doing, China hopes to set up a platform for open cooperation worldwide.
The first CIIE, an important and pioneering move made by China to expand opening up and strengthen economic and trade cooperation with other countries, has created a new opening-up model for various countries and promoted healthy economic development for China and the world alike.
Author Jia Jinjing serves as assistant dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. Author Guan Zhaoyu serves as an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.