Tag Archives: international trade

Kunming’s China-South Asia Expo Balloons to Enormous Proportions


When the Spring City throws a trade and investment party, everyone comes. That is the lesson gleaned following closing ceremonies held yesterday at the twenty-third annual Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair and third annual China-South Asia Expo. Expected to generate billions in business agreements and attract hundreds of thousands of curious attendees, the twin events did not disappoint.

The expos are held each year with the intention of attracting greater foreign business interest and interaction with Yunnan-based companies. This principal goal is part of a larger strategy to build up the province’s economy while also increasing China’s political and commercial footprint in Southeast Asia and beyond.

In terms of sheer numbers, these goals are being realized. Contracts signed during the course of the fairs totaled 785 billion yuan (US$127 billion) in direct foreign investment — a catchall term including money put toward virtually any business acquisition or other commitment. At last year’s expo opening ceremony, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (汪洋) said he expected the next few years to be “the most active and fruitful period yet” for cooperation between Yunnan, Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-countries and South Asia. He appears to have been correct.

The numbers for direct foreign investment in Yunnan dwarfed those concerned with Chinese ventures in other countries, which reached 155 billion yuan (US$25 billion). In total, 903 overseas firms inked deals to begin or expand existing businesses in the province. The largest of these involved the fields of tourism, energy and infrastructure development, logistics, education, and environmental protection.


Highlighting Yunnan’s growing importance as a trade and investment hub, 20,000 businesspeople as well as dignitaries from 31 countries attended. Among the most notable were Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao (李源潮), the president of the Maldives, Laos’ prime minister and high-ranking representatives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

India’s Minister of State External Affairs, VK Singh, also attended. He represented the expo’s feature country, a place of honor this year replete with a dedicated “museum” devoted not only to the Subcontinent’s most advanced industries, but also its history and culture. At a separate event held during the expo, Singh officially opened China’s first yoga college at the Yunnan University of Nationalities campus in Chenggong.

Giving India such recognition was no random decision, but instead a calculated diplomatic move aimed at encouraging the world’s second most populous country to embrace China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The brainchild of President Xi Jinping, the proposal looks to propel regional integration between China and the countries of Central and South Asia, India chief among them.

While enormous deals and industry-specific conferences were carried out behind closed doors, the general public tuned out in droves to this year’s expos. In preparation, organizers printed half a million tickets. It did not prove to be enough, as 740,000 attendees passed through the gates at the Kunming Dianchi International Convention and Exhibition Center, shattering last year’s attendance numbers by 500,000.

An exhibitor from Taiwan, surnamed Li, told reporters she had signed deals to sell dried fish to Carrefour, Parkson and Golden Eagle while at the expo. She, like many other exhibitors, ran out of things to sell two days before the expo concluded. “Everyone has been so friendly and warm,” Li said, “I hope to see them all again next year.”

This article, written by Patrick Scally with images by Yereth Jansen, was first posted here on Gokunming.com.

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Filed under China, Current Events, Economic development, Foreign policy, GMS, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

Hekou’s 600 million yuan “boondoggle”

Editor’s noteThe following article was written by Patrick Scally and originally published on the website Go Kunming. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

The media in Yunnan, and around the country, is often overly fond of splashy headlines containing enormous investment figures. The articles that follow are generally paeans to a modernizing society and the wonders of Chinese-style capitalism. Failure is rarely chronicled. That is far from the case in Hekou (河口), which is currently receiving plenty of negative journalistic buzz due to a development project provincial officials have deemed an embarrassing and costly “boondoggle”.

At issue is a 270 million yuan (US$43 million) construction project on the banks of the Honghe River (红河). The China-Asean International Tourist Cultural Scenic Corridor had been under construction since 2011, when the government approved development on the site, a kilometer-long stretch of uninhabited land.

Designed to be a showpiece of the city’s economic growth, the enterprise has become an object of public scorn and a symbol of miserable urban planning. The entire riverside development is now slated to be torn down at a cost surpassing that of its construction. Conservatively estimated at 300 million yuan (US$48 million), demolition costs include the projected expenses of paying back investors and cleaning up the site.

Although the corridor was nearly finished, its 150 mixed-use shopping and business venues are currently being razed and will eventually be converted into public green space. The decision to halt and ultimately destroy the venture is a “policy adjustment” by the local government, according to a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report.

Concerns over poor planning and improper waste disposal were raised by local residents as the project neared completion. Complaints increased and the endeavor, which was hoped to complement and augment natural scenery, became a blight that authorities describe as a “negative influence” on the riverside.

Investors, shop owners and even low-level government planners were apparently surprised when the announcement came to dismantle the corridor. “It never occurred to us that a new order [for demolition] would come so soon,” an unnamed city planner told the SCMP. Locals have taken things more in stride, using a still-standing plaza for ballroom dancing in the evenings.

Hekou sits on the shore of the Honghe River and is joined with the Vietnamese city of Lào Cai by bridge. For most of the past decade, provincial developers have been throwing money at the area in hopes of turning the city into a major trade depot connecting China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.

In 2008, a highway connecting Hekou County to major cities in neighboring countries was completed and work is well underway on a railway project linking Kunming to Hekou and, eventually, Hanoi. For now, however, it appears the 80,000 residents of Hekou will have to wait to see a venue that properly expresses their town’s importance as a regional trade hub.


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Filed under China, Economic development, SLIDER, Vietnam, Yunnan Province

China & Southeast Asia: Unbalanced Development in the Greater Mekong Subregion

By Xiangming Chen and Curtis Stone

Integrating with Southeast Asia is a key component of China’s multi-pronged regionalisation around its borders as its global rise continues. Below, Xiangming Chen and Curtis Stone consider the ambition of China’s ‘Go Southwest’ strategy to extend its economic interests and influence into Southeast Asia, and explore how China’s regional assertion reinforces the larger trend of new spatial configurations in light of increasing globalisation. The authors show how simultaneous globalisation and regionalisation unleashes a dual process of de-bordering and re-bordering where the traditional barrier role of borders is yielding more to that of bridges, as small, marginal, and remote border cities and towns become larger centers of trade and tourism. This article examines China’s effort to engage Southeast Asia and many of China’s footprints within and beyond the cities of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Inter-country and intra-regional trade provides the starting point for examining the extent of economic integration in the GMS, and also its unbalanced development.

Going Southwest

In a coffee shop in central Vientiane on a hot summer day in 2012, two young Chinese businessmen from northwestern China, sipping ice-cold Latte, talked about the prospect of a new venture to explore copper in the mountains of northern Laos: ‘If we make $100 and they [Laotians] get $5, they should be happy’. On the outskirts of Yunnan’s capital city of Kunming, China’s fourth largest airport behind Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (also the world’s fifth largest airport in occupied area), Changshui International Airport, which is expected to have flown 38 million passengers by 2020 and 65 million by 2040, was opened with much fanfare in June 2012. While seemingly disparate, this pair of anecdotes reveals the ambition of China’s ‘Go Southwest’ strategy to extend its economic interests and influence into Southeast Asia.

Integrating with Southeast Asia is a key component of China’s multi-pronged regionalisation around its borders as its global rise continues. China’s regional assertion reinforces a larger trend of new spatial configuration as an inherent part of increasing globalisation driven by China. This simultaneous globalisation and regionalisation unleashes a dual process of de-bordering and re-bordering where the traditional barrier role of borders is yielding more to that of bridges (Chen). As a result, once small, marginal, and remote border cities and towns have become larger and lively centers of trade, tourism, and other flows. China’s effort to engage Southeast Asia leaves many striking footprints within and beyond the cities of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) facilitated Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), which was launched in 1992 and consists of China’s Yunnan Province (with the later addition of Guangxi Zhuang Auto-nomous Region), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Trade with the GMS Countries

Inter-country and intra-regional trade provides the starting point for examining the extent of economic integration in the GMS as well as its unbalanced development. China’s trade with each of the GMS countries has grown since 1990, most rapidly since 2000 (see Figure 1). Given the size of their economies, Thailand, followed by Vietnam, led the smaller GMS countries in trade with China. However, the total volume of China-Myanmar trade rose by $5.9 billion from 2001 to 2011, while China-Laos trade increased by $1.2 billion (Figure 1). Much of China’s growing trade with Myanmar and Laos occurred through cooperation across international boundaries. The role of Yunnan and its capital city of Kunming in China-GMS trade cannot be understated. Yunnan’s GDP skyrocketed from $33 billion in 2000 to $160 billion in 2012, and the province aims to double that to $320 billion by 2017 through even stronger cross-border economic and trade ties. Kunming acts as the origin and core of economic activities that reach into the bordering countries of Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and beyond.


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Filed under ASEAN, Cambodia, China, Current Events, Economic development, Energy, Foreign policy, GMS, Governance, Mekong River, Myanmar/Burma, Regional Relations, Thailand, Uncategorized, Vietnam, water