A train serving the Nanchang-Wenzhou-Los Angeles sea-rail intermodal express line departs Nanchang, Jiangxi province, on March 2. [PHOTO by HU GUOLIN/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Nation’s overseas orders confronting pandemic stress, soft external demand
Selling products abroad used to be relatively simple for Chinese exporters two or three decades ago. They received orders from foreign trade enterprises, long-term foreign clients and new customers they met at trade shows such as the China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) and China-ASEAN Expo, then manufactured and shipped the goods worldwide. Many business owners thus used to have more time to play golf and taste tea with friends.
Today, this kind of management and business model is no longer tenable for them to stay competitive, and may even put business owners at a competitive disadvantage.
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, softening external demand, geopolitical and economic shocks and fierce competition from countries such as Vietnam and India in the area of low-end production over the past three years, Chinese manufacturers — especially those from coastal provinces such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong — have been boosting their presence at international expos and expanding market channels in emerging markets to drive sales overseas this year.
For instance, Jiangsu plans to support its exporters in participating in 206 overseas business exhibitions, including the International Sourcing Expo (Australia) in Sydney in July and Manufacturing World Osaka in Japan in October this year.
While assisting its companies from new energy vehicles and power battery industries to expand their sales channels in overseas markets, Jiangsu’s provincial government will help bolster exports of used cars from Nanjing and Suzhou so as to cultivate new growth points for exports this year.
To help its companies seize more orders in overseas markets, the government of Wenzhou, an export hub in Zhejiang, is offering subsidies to encourage its companies to take part in overseas trade fairs this year. It has set a goal to help more than 300 exporters participate in more than 50 exhibitions abroad in the first quarter.
After participating in the MIDO Eyewear Show 2023, an annual international event of the optics, optometry, ophthalmology and eyewear industry in Milan in early February, Pan Aimei, general manager of Wenzhou Tangfeng Songrain Industrial Co Ltd, together with three employees, sealed $600,000 worth of business orders at its booth in the Italian city. The eyewear manufacturer plans to travel to Brazil, Singapore, France and other countries to participate in various optical exhibitions later this year to win more orders.
“Geopolitical tensions have pushed many European clients to place a smaller number of orders. So, we have altered our marketing strategy,” said Pan. “We have already booked booths at optical shows to be held in Rio de Janeiro and Singapore later this year to establish our market presence in nontraditional markets like some economies in South America and Southeast Asia.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Yu Baocai, a sales manager at Shuangtong Daily Necessities Co Ltd — a Yiwu, Zhejiang-based plastic products manufacturer — said that applying for APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Business Travel Cards, confirming meeting schedules with overseas clients and developing travel itineraries for the coming months have become priorities after he secured a number of orders at the company’s booth at Ambiente 2023, one of the world’s major consumer goods trade fairs held in Frankfurt, Germany, in early February.
The APEC Business Travel Card is a travel document issued to business travelers who are citizens of APEC participating economies. The document eliminates the need for holders to possess visas when visiting other APEC economies, said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Apart from introducing its latest environmentally friendly products made of glass, reeds and grains to European customers, Yu said the company will actively explore emerging markets, especially North African and Middle East nations, as well as signatory countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact, to further diversify its sales channels in the years ahead.
Given the increasing risks of a global recession and a notable slowdown in external demand, Li Xingqian, director-general of the department of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said that the government will optimize existing trade policies and introduce new measures this year. This will help businesses cut operating costs and raise efficiency while stabilizing and improving the structure of the country’s foreign trade.
Supported by Wenzhou’s well-developed transportation infrastructure and geographic advantages, a total of 34 twenty-foot equivalent container units loaded with various exports, such as lamps, suitcases and auto parts, were shipped by train from Nanchang, capital of inland Jiangxi province, to Wenzhou on Feb 19, as part of the Wenzhou-Nanchang sea-rail intermodal express service.
These goods will then be shipped to ports of the United States, Thailand and Vietnam via various shipping companies through Wenzhou Port. This marks the gradual normalization of the Wenzhou-Nanchang sea-rail intermodal express service, according to the Wenzhou bureau of commerce.
Yue Chen, general manager of the Jiangxi branch of Ningbo Port Railway Co Ltd — the service’s operator for railroad operations — said his company will intensify efforts to boost cargo volumes for the intermodal express service. It aims to ensure that the service can operate at least once per week.
Wenzhou had opened direct cargo flights to 11 countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Russia, by the end of 2022, while its regional sea shipping network covers a number of major ports in member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Eager to promote its products in ASEAN markets, Quanzhou, Fujian, began running a textile and garment exhibition and sales center in Bangkok, Thailand, in mid-February.
The city plans to leverage its export-oriented industry structure and organize more than 19 delegations to go on overseas business trips in the first quarter, seeking opportunities and expanding global market share. Quanzhou’s government has stated that more than 330 people from 230 local companies are expected to participate in these events.
Even though global economic downturns and uncertainties have created challenges for many countries in maintaining stable foreign trade and investment, China has responded by upgrading its industrial structure and further deepening its reform and opening-up policies, said Chen Jianqi, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (National Academy of Governance).
According to the Government Work Report submitted to the 14th National People’s Congress for deliberation in early March, China will take active steps to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and other high-standard economic and trade agreements, and steadily expand institutional opening-up by proactively adopting relevant rules, regulations and standards.
Yang Fan, spokeswoman for the Beijing-based China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said as China’s economy continues to recover and cross-border exchanges are gradually normalized, the CCPIT will host and participate in hundreds of trade and economic activities, such as exhibitions, forums and mutual delegation visits in 2023.
Yang said the CCPIT will organize high-level economic and trade delegations to visit the US, Europe, Australia, Russia, South Korea, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and other countries and regions this year. The agency had received 519 applications for overseas exhibitions submitted by 50 domestic exhibition organizers, in 47 countries, by late February.