CIIE shows China not island unto itself

By Robert Walker Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/8 17:58:42

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The third China International Import Expo (CIIE) kicked off on Thursday. Established in 2018, the expo is the world's first import-themed trade show. Organizers say that more than 400,000 people registered for this year's expo.

The mission of the expo is to increase China's imports, both for the purposes of diversifying the Chinese economy, as well as to show a commitment to free trade and globalization. Both of these have been under attack in recent years as a result of the US trade war against China.

And while the program is economic in focus, perhaps its most significant impact is that unlike virtually all trade shows and conventions around the world over the last few months, the CIIE is not being held virtually, but in person, in Shanghai.

While China has effectively kept the novel coronavirus in check, Western countries are witnessing typical days recently of more than half a million new cases, and thousands of new deaths.

The most powerful lesson from the CIIE is that taking the novel coronavirus pandemic seriously not only carry critical healthcare benefits, including saving lives, but also helps avoid potentially catastrophic economic consequences as well.

Recently, the US - where mask-wearing, physical distancing and other measures aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly virus have become politicized - has been averaging nearly 100,000 new cases and almost a thousand new deaths every single day. 

China's success in holding back the epidemic was certainly not an easy feat, and required tremendous focus and self-sacrifice on the part of 1.4 billion people, from tireless healthcare professionals to those whose lives were temporarily put on hold. That didn't stop criticism from being lobbed at China for its perceived "extreme" response in Western capitals. But the short term pain was clearly worth the long term gain. Life has essentially gotten back to normal in China, and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China is one of a very small number of countries who will see economic growth in 2020.

It's still not too late for the world to learn from China's success and start to emulate its actions. Taking the novel coronavirus seriously will mean short term disruptions, but will allow life to return to normal - or at least resembling normal - much faster than a death by a thousand cuts of intermittent and unfocused shutdowns, admissions of failure from political leadership, and poorly enforced public health guidelines.

The CIIE is far more than just a trade show devoted to imports. It is a sign to the world that China is not an island unto itself. Despite China's enormous population and relentless economic growth, it has proven time and time again to be committed to engaging fully in free trade with partner countries in all corners around the world. That doesn't just mean attracting imports and reducing its trade surplus with partners, but ultimately helping them return to normal functioning as soon as possible. That means achieving both financial and physical health. But while China offers its partnership and assistance, ultimately it is up to the rest of the world to not just see China return to life, but to desire the same, as well. 

The author is an expert in international branding strategy, with a particular area of interest in China's image in the Western world. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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