(Yicai Global) Nov. 28 -- The China International Import Expo, the world's first ever import-only trade show, was a "smart move" to signal the country's willingness to bring in more finished goods, according to a scholar on international political economy.
"Clearly they feel under pressure to show they're not just exploiting all the export opportunities, but they're willing to rebalance the situation," Dr. Robert Falkner of the London School of Economics told Yicai Global earlier this month. "But that rebalancing will take a long time to play itself out."
President Xi Jinping vowed to cut import tariffs in his opening speech at the CIIE, which ran for six days from Nov. 5. He also said China would bring in more than USD30 trillion of goods over the coming 15 years, as well as over USD10 trillion worth of services.
In recent years, China's leadership has been steering the world's second-largest economy away from a growth model rooted in resource-based manufacturing, investment and exports toward one focused more on domestic-driven services, private consumption and innovation. This year, the government has also announced a slew of measures to give more market access to overseas companies and investment.
"China has still a lot of growth of the domestic market to go through to become a major importer," said Falkner, who was in Shanghai lecturing for the Trium Executive MBA, an academic course offered to top-tier global managers and run by the LSE, New York University and HEC Paris. "It is obviously rising fast into the middle-income rank, but that's still taking a long time to feed through into increased demand for foreign goods. It's starting to change, but I'd say that's the beginning of a journey."
The CIIE hosted hundreds of overseas exhibitors looking to bring their products, ranging from American apples to Hitachi's massive car dismantler, to the Chinese market. It was the first time a country had ever held such an event, which did not allow local companies to exhibit despite the presence of foreign businesses.
The import fair "was a smart move to signal the willingness to engage in this way, but whether they can do so in a convincing way, I think that'll take a much longer effort," Falkner said. "This is the beginning of what we understand is a continuous effort to show now that China is open to the world as a world importer."