Pivoting West

Updated: 2013-09-09 15:54


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Businesses from Central Asia and Europe flock to Urumqi for the China-Eurasia Expo

Even at nine o'clock in the evening, darkness cannot fully blanket Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a geographical feature that allows the China-Eurasia Expo—which is partially held outdoors—to last longer than it would were it held in a more eastern part of the country.

Pivoting West
Show time: Exhibitors display their goods on September 3, 2013,  the opening day of the Third China-Eurasia Expo [Photo / CFP]

Li Feilong, owner of a local building material company, was not complaining. He had more time to woo potential business partners.

"I began to attend China-Eurasia Expo when it was called Urumqi fair. Now, it has become increasingly difficult to even get a booth at the expo," said Li, referring to the fact that less than 50 percent of applicants were awarded a space at the Expo, according to statistics from the organizing committee.

The Urumqi-based building material manufacturer exported 50 percent of its products to the five central Asian nations—Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Its products can be found in more than 70 percent of the bus rapid transit system in Urumqi.

"Following each China-Eurasia Expo, my company always receives many inquiries from real estate companies and even militaries. The expo has become an important opportunity to expose what you have to offer," said Li.

Pivoting West
Curiosity aroused: Two children fixate on a 3D printer at the expo [Photo / CFP]

The Central Government drafted plans in 2010 to rapidly develop its most western frontier in a number of areas. In September 2011, the first China-Eurasia Expo, upgraded from the 19-year-old China Urumqi Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Fair, was held.

"Given that Xinjiang is in the interior of the Eurasian continent, it has been the most dynamic in economic development," said Zhang Lei, Deputy Director of the Central Asia Regional Economy Institute under the Xinjiang University of Finance and Economics. Xinjiang, once so prominent along the Silk Road 2,000 years ago, is trying to reposition itself as the epicenter of trade between China, Central Asia and Europe.The expo strives to become a platform for cooperation for the Eurasian region by using Xinjiang's geographical advantage.

A total of 1,565 enterprises, including 1,432 domestic companies and 133 from overseas, participated in the expo and 165 key investment agreements were signed, amounting to 213.22 billion yuan ($34.84 billion), up 3.08 percent from the previous year.

At the opening ceremony of the expo, China's Vice President Li Yuanchao predicted that in the next five years, China would import commodities worth $8 trillion from and make direct investments of $450 billion in Asia and Europe.

"The world economy is undergoing profound changes. The trends of economic globalization and regional integration are gaining momentum," said Li Yuanchao.

Matlubkhon Davlatov, Tajikistan's First Deputy Prime Minister, said the expo is an important platform for economic cooperation and trade between Xinjiang and Central Asia. Here, they can exchange views, promote investment and give play to economic and trade potential, he said.

Busy venue

Products like jewelry, deep-sea fish oil, cranes and trucks were on display in the Xinjiang International Convention and Exhibition Center. Upon entering the center, Sany Heavy Industry easily nabbed the attention of visitors with its impressive array of machinery. Opening up shop in Urumqi in 2011, Sany laid a focus on northwest China and the Central Asian markets. This year, it rented a 2,600-square-meter outdoor exhibition zone, with 15 iron giants on display.

China's solar power giant Yingli Green Energy is another company looking west of Xinjiang for growth markets. Haunted by the photovoltaic dispute with the EU, Yingli Green Energy still shows great enthusiasm in expanding overseas. "While exports to EU countries keep falling, Yingli has now turned its attention to countries that have yet to join the euro zone, such as Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus," said Liu Ying, Accounting Manager of Yingli's Overseas Sales Department, at the expo.

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