Services trade fair demonstrates confidence, defies West's smear
Event displays nation's determination to further open up market
Published: Sep 04, 2023 12:04 AM Updated: Sep 04, 2023 12:28 AM
Singers perform at the UK pavilion at the China National Convention Center in Beijing on September 3, 2023. The 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) is held in Beijing from September 2 to 6. The UK is the Guest Country of Honor at this year's trade fair. Photo: Xinhua

Singers perform at the UK pavilion at the China National Convention Center in Beijing on September 3, 2023. The 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) is held in Beijing from September 2 to 6. The UK is the Guest Country of Honor at this year's trade fair. Photo: Xinhua

The participation by foreign companies and the large number of deals announced at the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), one of the world's largest services trade fairs, showcased the attractiveness of China's services sector and defied Western media hype that the Chinese economy faces a gloomy future, Chinese analysts and observers said on Sunday.

The 2023 CIFTIS entered its second day on Sunday, with multinationals expressing confidence in the Chinese economy and calling for strengthening the bond of mutually beneficial relations.

UK-based AstraZeneca, a third time participant of the CIFTIS, announced on Sunday that it has inked three deals with local partners on new drug commercialization, vaccine research and development, and joint development of a new drug.

"China is becoming increasingly important in our global strategy, as it sees continuous upgrading from a primary sales market to a primary production base and to a primary innovation center," the pharmaceutical firm said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Sunday. 

Underlining growing importance attached to the Chinese market, US-based electric vehicle  maker Tesla brought a new version of China-made Model 3 to the 2023 CIFTIS on Saturday, featuring functions popular among Chinese consumers such as ambient lighting. It's the first time the electric auto maker has rolled out a vehicle in China ahead of the US.

"We hope to use the platform offered by CIFTIS to deepen cooperation, and strengthen our presence in China, and we are always confident in the Chinese market," Zhang Xiqiang, CEO for China at Nestle SA, told the Global Times. The Swiss multinational food and drink processing conglomerate brought a total of 19 sub-brands in coffee and water to the show.

As China attaches great importance to opening-up and free trade and investment, the 2023 CIFTIS is but one major trade show held in the second half of the year.

The third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing in October and the sixth China International Import Expo will be held in November in Shanghai. Then, at the end of November, the first China International Supply Chain Expo will be held in Beijing.

Chinese experts said while holding one trade show may have limited influence on overall foreign trade and investment growth, a slew of top-level trade shows display China's determination on further opening up its market, sharing its development dividends with the world and is therefore a great confidence booster.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that West-led smearing campaign is attempting to portray a picture that China now faces insufficient capital confidence and the issue of capital flight.

"The holding of the CIFTIS, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and other mega events convey a message - China's economy is undergoing transformation and serves to strengthen the confidence of foreign companies in the Chinese economy and market," Wang said.

Wider opening-up

China will reduce the number of items on the negative list for foreign investment and boost the openness level in modern services, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said at a CIFTIS forum on Sunday, noting that the Chinese path to modernization will offer new opportunities for global development.

Following US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's visit to China in late August, during which Raimondo urged American businesses to keep investing in China, many other Western countries are also sending their business delegations to China.

A delegation of Australian federal ministers will attend a high-level dialogue in Beijing this week "in a further sign of a warming of relations after a years-long chill," the AP reported Saturday.

On the same day, Japan's Kyodo News reported that a group of Japanese business leaders will visit China in January, a first since 2019 following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the CIFTIS, the UK had the largest business delegation. And data from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) showed that China saw foreign direct investment from the UK jump 159.9 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of 2023.

Wang Yiwei noted that even US' allies are having question over the US' economic growth outlook and the fact that they are betting both ways underlines China's competitive standing as a worthy investment destination amid concerns of a global economic slowdown.

Chinese experts noted that while global economy is in the doldrums, with insufficient momentum in post-pandemic recovery, and countries are facing different problems from inflation to debt, the large number of overseas companies attending this year's CIFTIS shows the attractiveness of the event, even as the Chinese economy is facing a relatively difficult period. 

"China's CIFTIS gives participating countries an opportunity to expand their exports to China, which is conducive to their economic growth and employment," Li Jun, head of Institute for International Trade in Services of Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Growing services trade

Despite global headwinds, China's trade in services grew at a faster rate than trade in goods, providing crucial support for high-quality economic development and opening up new space for economic and trade cooperation.

China's service industry accounts for the bulk of the utilization of foreign investment, exceeding 70 percent for multiple years. 

Service trade provides new advantages, new momentum and new areas for utilizing foreign capital, through the development of the service industry, China could enhance the quality of manufacturing industry further, according to Li.

In 2022, China's services imports and exports grew 12.9 percent year on year to reach a record high of nearly 6 trillion yuan ($839.16 billion), ranking second in the world for the ninth consecutive year, according to data from MOFCOM.

In the first seven months of this year, China's service trade value grew 8.1 percent year-on-year to 3.67 trillion yuan, MOFCOM said on Thursday.

In the future, sectors such as technological innovation, digital economy, medical care, vocational education and training, and financial services may become important directions for China to attract foreign investment and promote the development of China's service industry, Jane Yang, Managing Partner of Ernst & Young (EY) Beijing Office, told the Global Times.