Russian traders bullish on vast Chinese market at CIIE
Sellers stay up at night, visit cyberspace to be in buyers' zones
Published: Nov 09, 2021 09:48 PM
Visitors tour the Russian booth at the 4th CIIE on November 8, 2021. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Visitors tour the Russian booth at the 4th CIIE on November 8, 2021. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Russian companies selling everything from alcoholic beverages and packaged goods to dairy products are eyeing the Chinese market with great confidence at the ongoing 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, despite inconveniences posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such confidence among businesses also comes as Russia and China are enjoying historically close bilateral ties as well as fast-growing trade, despite shifting global geopolitical trends and negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having been in the same time and space zones has been a protocol in China to trace and locate close contacts of people infected with the COVID-19 virus, but the Global Times found that merchants at the CIIE are using the same strategy to be with their prospective customers in cyberspace.

Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have meant that many Russian business managers and owners could not participate in the expo in person, but this has not prevented them from taking part in the show with the help of virtual meeting rooms. 

Anna Kirreva, a Russian business representative with biscuit producer Morozov, got up at 3 am every day this week to meet customers via the cloud.

"We signed one deal last year, but it did not play out due to a logistics bottleneck. However, this did not dent my enthusiasm for the Chinese market, and there have been a number of potential buyers so far," Anna, neatly dressed as if attending a formal business meeting, told the Global Times via a Zoom chat. "I am confident that all our work and energy will pay off in the end."

Russia sent 34 companies to the 4th CIIE, the Russian Embassy announced on its Sina Weibo account on November 2.

Due to stringent epidemic control and prevention measures, the overall traffic of visitors to this year's CIIE was slashed from the 2020 CIIE, which was also held amid the epidemic's influence. 

However, some Russian companies are very confident. 

Ovchinnikova Ekaterina, a sales representative with Russian dairy company Svitlogorie, told the Global Times that the visitor numbers actually beat their expectations. 

Most of those who needed to turn out at the CIIE - the professional buyers - actually made it, said Ekaterina, who shared the company's dairy products and ice cream with customers who came in an endless stream. 

"Our company has a franchise cartoon show, and it is now broadcast in a number of Chinese cities," Ekaterina said. "I think the chance of our business success here grows as our brand exposure increases."

Analysts said increased exports of agricultural goods from Russia to China will improve the quality and optimize the structure of bilateral trade, in addition to providing a significant boost to bilateral trade value and helping realize a $200 billion trade goal set by the leaders of the two countries.

"Natural and of high quality, Russian agricultural produce belongs to a fast-growing category of goods in China's imports," Song Kui, president of the Contemporary China-Russia Regional Economy Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

An official at the Russian Export Center told the Global Times that due to the virus' impact on cross-border trade, this year the biggest winner from the CIIE could be alcoholic beverages, which are least picky about transportation. The other goods expected to see big increases are edible oils and biscuits. 

larisa Belova, sales manager with Russian distiller Veresk, told the Global Times via WeChat on Tuesday that she talked with some 40 potential buyers through online chats during this year's CIIE. 

"Four customers have shown an intent to buy goods from us, in contrast to 2019's zero," Belova said.

Supported by strong momentum and stable trade growth, bilateral trade is expected to hit a new high this year, according to China's Ministry of Commerce in September. 

Thanks to their complementary goods trade structure, China's foreign trade with Russia soared 30.9 percent year-on-year to $115.66 billion in the first 10 months of 2021, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed in November.

Russia's trade representative in China, Alexei Dakhnovsky, reportedly said on the sidelines of the 4th CIIE that although Russian companies have to face strong competition in the Chinese market, even a slice of the Chinese market, even a niche market, can mean a lot to companies.