Nations, Numbers and Nanning
China and ASEAN
Expand Global Profile
In Nanning, the
capital city of Guangxi Zhang Autonomous Region, tens of thousands
of officials, businesspeople and journalists braved a heavy morning
downpour to hustle into the cavernous and pristine Nanning
International Convention and Exhibition Center on October 19, 2005.
There they mingled, ogled product and cut deals among some 3,500
exhibits promoting everything from relics to real estate and coffee
to cars. The massive four-day networking affair exemplified a
global-scale mercantile mentality, all-out governmental support and
state-of-the-art Vegas-like glitz. The numbers and regional
implications ranged from impressive to astounding.
The event was the second annual
China-ASEAN Expo (CAExpo) and among other milestones reached:
negotiations concluded there resulted in contracts being inked for
some 126 international transactions valued collectively at 5.29
billion US dollars. That’s an increase of 6 percent in trade value
over the prior year, according to Li Jinzao, deputy director of the
CAExpo organizing committee and vice chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang
Indicative of the growing momentum in
transnational investment and cooperation between China and ASEAN
nations, attending the CAExpo opening ceremony, and addressing
thousands of assembled participants and members of the international
media, were Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Thai Deputy Prime
Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Lao Vice
President Choummali Sayasone, and Prime Minister Soe Win of Myanmar.
The high-level gathering was a
notable continuation of last year’s CAExpo, during which
Vice-Premier Wu Yi stressed the need for increasing China-ASEAN
collaboration. "Only when China and the ASEAN member nations seize
the opportunity and enhance cooperation can the two sides succeed in
acute global competition," she said.
Exhibit areas for the 2005 CAExpo at
the Nanning Convention Center were sold out. Formatted throughout 15
integrated exhibition halls, within a total interior space of
150,000 square meters (1,614,600 square feet), were 3,000 exhibition
booths and demonstration areas. Additional exterior space provided
26,000 square meters for another 500 booths. Added to that were 11
conference halls and meeting rooms, utilizing another 4,840 square
meters of the massive convention center.
The number of enterprises applying
for exhibition space at the expo exceeded expectations, with
requests for more than twice the number of booths originally
allotted by organizers. More than 1,000 of the 3,500 exhibition
booths eventually installed were reserved by ASEAN nation
enterprises, accounting for more than 40% of the total occupancy.
Major international players at the
event included Siemens, Ericsson, Finnish STORAENSO, China Telecom,
China Mobile, Japanese Ojipaper, NEC, Shanghai Baogang Steel Co.,
China-Aerospace, Tsinghua Tongfang, TCL Group, Skyworth Digital and
many more high-profile enterprises. In support of their localized
interests, representatives from 40 ASEAN-nation-based chambers of
commerce also attended.
Evidencing the increasing importance
of Nanning as an international metropolis and hub of regional
commerce, several of the ASEAN member nations are expected to
establish consulates in the city, including Thailand, Laos and
Malaysia. Vietnam and Cambodia already have consulate-presence
The highly successful CAExpo further
evidences a building momentum in the movement of 11 nations to fully
realize a free trade zone (FTA), a greater region of commerce that
will encompass a total population of more than 1.7 billion. For 11
years, ASEAN has remained among the top five of China’s trading
According to the ASEAN Secretariat,
China-ASEAN trade volume accelerated at an annual rate of about 40
percent in the past three years. In 2004, trade volume surpassed 100
billion US dollars. The Secretariat’s simulations further project a
0.9 percent expansion in GDP benefiting the ASEAN nations, and a 0.3
percent yield for China.
The China-ASEAN FTA, with collective
national markets comprising 2 trillion US dollars in gross domestic
product, is projected to become the world’s third largest trading
region, after the European Union and the North American FTA.
Mobilization, cooperation and speed
have proven to be the watchwords in the conception of CAExpo and the
accelerating development of ASEAN. Zhai Kun, a scholar with the
China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said, "Of
all the FTA negotiations in which China has participated, the
negotiation with ASEAN has by far proved to be the fastest and most
In the first six months of 2005,
cumulative bilateral transnational trade between China and the ASEAN
10 – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – jumped 25 percent to
exceed $59 billion. At least partially seeding this rapid fruition
was China’s 2004 $226-million direct foreign investment into ASEAN.
The overall aim of the ASEAN FTA is
full transnational economic integration by 2020. Central to the
plan, tariffs on some goods are projected to drop to between zero
and five percent. By 2010, the accord will apply to the six more
advanced ASEAN economies, with phase-in of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
and Myanmar expected to be complete by 2015.
Already, with implementation of the
"Agreement on Goods Trade" in July 2005, approximately 7,000
categories of products were detailed in the tax reduction list.
Regional trade in those products is projected to realize a
zero-tariff benefit by 2010.
Not All Business
Demonstrating a scope of production,
level of intricacy and a mind-blowing diversity of performance
beyond anything this writer has ever experienced in the West,
coordinated with the kick-off of CAExpo, Nanning also hosted the
fifth annual Nanning International Folk Song Festival.
Designed to draw a younger crowd,
featured this year were more modern beats intermingled with the
traditional. The sold-out event, with a scope of production well
surpassing the Super Bowl halftime extravaganzas of the US, centered
on "Flying Song 2005,” a spectacular rendered in four highly visual
and highly elaborate musical chapters, each named after a season.
Huge production numbers, acrobats,
gymnasts, flying-wire acts, veteran local folk artists, really cute
singing kids and uncountable numbers of unbelievably attractive
highly-costumed dancers seamlessly combined with the performances of
top Chinese pop stars from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and
beyond. Building folk elements into their musical portfolio were
major artists like Jolin Tsai, JJ Lam, and Jay Chow. Nanning, known
in some parts as the "ocean of songs," also boasts a home-grown folk
music legend, Sister Liu.
And then there’s the city.
Nanning in Brief: Business, Beauty and Brains
Magazine Article in PDF - Nanning ◄
What earned Nanning its world-class
designation as host city for the annual China-ASEAN Expo?
Besides its place in history, this is a metropolis carrying out
highly progressive investment in infrastructure, business, education
A center of culture and commerce for
more than 1,600 years, today Nanning and the two counties under its
jurisdiction, Yongning and Wuming, comprise a total population of
more than 2.5 million people and span a total geography of more than
10 thousand square kilometers. Approximately 700 thousand people
reside within about 70 square kilometers of the urban center. The
Yong River, a branch of the Xijiang River, flows through the city
and shipping is a big part the industrial base.
Nature of Nanning
On a first trip to Nanning, during
that first ride from the airport, traversing rolling hills and green
countryside, one could be forgiven for presuming the route would
take them to a rural town or outpost. Indeed, even upon entering the
thriving and modern urban center, it becomes clear that city
directors take their greenery seriously.
Even the busiest boulevards are lined
with lush trees, flowers and tropical plants. But the showstopper is
the world-class expansive promenade and landscaping surrounding the
downtown South Lake, "the first lake" of Nanning. Of special note is
the area around the central fountain area, where myriad tropical
trees from around the world have been collected and are lovingly
tended by the park’s fastidious gardeners.
Also suggested for sightseers seeking
quiet, fresh air and lush Eden-like greenery is the Green Mountain
Park, 10 kilometers southeast of the city center. The “mountain” is
actually 18 contiguous ridges spanning 4.07 square kilometers, with
the main peak reaching 289 meters above sea level. Cradled therein
is 14,667 square meters of lake waters tucked among 25,000 square
meters of fertile greenscape. Notable stops include the Tropical
Rain Forest Garden, the Palm Garden, the Water Moon Temple, the
Dragon and Elephant Tower, the Thailand Garden, the Fairy Pool, the
Sky Pool and the largest sago cycas garden in the world.
Remarkably, Nanning has managed to
largely safeguard its precious natural environment while expanding a
dynamic business landscape.
Numbers of Nanning
Is there a major city in this nation
that is not booming? From what this writer has seen: No.
In the first six months of 2005,
Nanning’s gross revenues reached 4.897 billion yuan, an increase
exceeding 15 percent over the same period of 2004. And, of
particular note, in January 2005 Nanning achieved a major milestone:
revenues topped 1.11 billion yuan, besting the numbers of January
2004 by 33.59 percent. Nanning thus became the first city in Guangxi
Autonomous Region to generate 1 billion yuan in a single month.
Nanning’s managers are investing a
good chunk of those additional funds in the education of its
youngest citizens – the future of the city. An additional 53.28
million yuan was recently invested in resources such as equipment
and building renewal for primary and secondary schools.
Significantly, a large portion of the funds are going to the program
(roughly translated as), “Helping 3,000 Students from Low Income
Families through Education.” And an additional 600,000 yuan
has been allocated for improving the infrastructure and overall
teaching conditions at schools previously designated as fiscally
The spiritual heart of a city is held
within its people. And the people of Nanning are some of the most
warm-hearted of any urban dwellers this writer has encountered in
China. Indeed, citizens there are about as friendly, helpful and
gracious as any I have come across in any city in the world.
Remarkably, the merchants, too, are polite and seemingly tranquil –
not hustling and howling at the very few westerners seen on the
sidewalks of the harmoniously hyperactive commercial districts.
Near the end of my stay, passing a
small electronics store not far from my hotel, I stopped in with the
admittedly doubtful notion of replacing the rubber ear-fittings of
some rather pricey portable headphones acquired in the US. Not
surprisingly, the store did not stock the oddball item. In fact, I
would have been shocked to locate the very specialized pieces on
hand at any major retailer in the States. But here, in this
metropolis in southern China, before I knew what was happening, one
of the shopkeepers tore out of the store, leapt on a scooter and
buzzed off down the street.
A short while later he returned,
smiling big. I discovered he had motored to another store a few
kilometers away to acquire the precise item I needed – and at a very
Perhaps the only debatable downside
to the Nanning-style of hospitality is encountered in the city’s
One evening an Irish journalist
associate and I ventured into the Bar and City Club on Tao Yuan Jie
Street. This place, we both agreed, was high-energy, yet somehow
also about the most well-mannered and friendliest nightclub either
of us had encountered in China – or maybe anywhere. The downside?
We were the only westerners in the place and many of the local
clientele insisted on sharing with us their pitchers of the liquid
house specialty. This was offered up with big smiles, and the
expectation that the two-ounce offering be honorably consumed in
traditionally gregarious Chinese style: one gulp and “Gan bei!”
Yet, even in my slightly hazy and
somewhat headache-impaired thoughts of the following morning, as I
moved slowly through my tasks and neared the end of my stay, I
continued to collect ever-fonder memories of a wonderful people and
a special city, Nanning.