Started almost 50 years ago in 1957, the Canton Fair today is attracting about 200,000 visitors from more than 200 countries, hosting more than 30,000 booths in a massive exhibition space of nearly 300,000 m2 (that’s 30 soccer fields combined) and it is said to generate more than $US30 billion in trade.
Funny enough, it has been renamed "China Import and Export Commodities Fair" – a cosmetic change to show to the world that China is trying to better balance its trade (it generated over $US100 billion in surplus last year).
I don't know anybody (our clients will certainly confirm this) that has not been fascinated and baffled upon entering this fair, not to mention getting lost while walking around. You physically feel the economic growth in process – with the crowds of people milling around, stopping to take notes, speaking English and dozens of other different languages. Seeing all of these Chinese businesspeople smiling, nodding their heads, negotiating….with hotels filled to the brim, the buses bursting with people – well, it’s as though the entire world was made up of The entire world of Importers is just around.
For me, the Canton Fair has also been a very good indicator of measuring the pace at which China’s industry is growing, a place to check the pulse of where they are so far. In 10 years, we have seen so many new products: from handcrafts and Christmas garlands to the latest plasma screens, home video system, laptops and wine cellars.
One of our clients corep.com just reminded me about coming to the Fair in the early 80s, when he read the "small red book" for one whole hour at the Luoho border and when the Dong Fan Hotel was the best in Town. Prices have multiplied by 10 since those times, but the rooms haven’t changed one bit!
Anyway, the Canton Fair is just one of the most characteristic milestones of the second half of the 20th century – comparable to the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris.