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CIIE and a Shifting Global Economic Order
Monday, 07 January 2019 10:53

Photo by China Focus

The world’s first import-themed national-level expo, the China International Import Expo (CIIE), took place in Shanghai on 5-10 November 2018. In understanding the significance of the event, many have focused on the shift taking place in the global economic order being led by China, symbolized by these large international events. At an international level, CIIE represents the promotion of international trade, liberalization, as well as economic globalization. At a domestic level, CIIE is seen as part of a national initiative to drive consumption-led growth and to diversify China’s imports.

Certain international developments, such as the US-China trade tensions, the rollout of the One-Belt-One-Road project, and the growing influence of the BRICS grouping, represent changes to the existing global order. And large-scale undertakings such as CIIE are an expression of China’s aspirations to play its role in shaping outcomes in the global economic arena.

Exporters from all countries were welcome to participate in CIIE, but twelve countries were singled out and given the status of ‘Guest of Honour’. These countries are Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. Spanning five continents, incorporating both developed and developing economies, and comprising both land-locked countries and those possessing major seaports, these countries are significant partners to enabling China to realise its objectives.

With the exception of India, all other members of the BRICS grouping, namely Brazil, Russia and South Africa, were given Guest of Honour status. This not only shows China’s continued commitment to this grouping, but also its desire to continue to see the status and influence of BRICS grow within the international system. The BRICS economic partnership serves to create a coordinated global economic development strategy between these major developing nations and to allow other developing nations to follow in their success.

It is further relevant to note that in the context of increasing tensions between China and the US, Canada and Mexico are given Guest of Honour Status. As neighbours and major political and economic partners to the USA, their privileged participation in CIIE points to China’s intention to secure good relations in the region as a whole, and with economies other than major developed nations such as the US.

With 172 countries represented and over 3,600 businesses attending, the expo was an opportunity for China to utilize the shift in the global economy to focus more on developing nations. The event gave smaller economic nations an opportunity to effectively represent themselves on this platform that is expected to drive the further integration of economies globally.

During the 2018 FOCAC summit hosted by Beijing in September, China had given the opportunity to the least developed African countries to set up a stand at the expo without paying any fees. China and African countries have made great efforts to dispel the idea of an economic relationship that favors China, and opportunities such as the expo allowed African nations to showcase their country’s economic potential by displaying produce from their export-ready industries. Africa should be proactive in ensuring political and economic cooperation between African countries, through developing a coordinated China strategy to continue the success of both the FOCAC partnership and CIIE.

This article is produced by The Beijing Axis and is published in The Econometer section of ChinAfrica magazine (December 2018), an English and French language monthly publication that provides news, views and analysis on all things China, Africa and China-Africa relations.