Region gets mighty boost from hosting cornerstone global event
South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has enjoyed significant gains in economic growth and opening up, thanks to its hosting of the annual China-ASEAN Expo since 2004, local officials said.
As the host of the expo, Guangxi has become a portal for China to expand trade and commercial relations with ASEAN countries, said Wang Lei, director of Guangxi International Expo Affairs Bureau.
It is playing an increasingly important role in China's diplomatic activities. These have brought a raft of support for Guangxi's development in, among other things, policy, information, projects and mechanisms, Wang said.
Officials said that following the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area in 2010, the strategic position and important role of Guangxi has become ever more prominent.
The Guangxi government said that as a result, the level of the region's opening up to the outside world has continued to rise.
According to official figures, Guangxi's trade volume with Association of Southeast Asian Nations increased from 8.29 billion yuan ($1.23 billion) in 2004 to 189 billion yuan in 2017, at an average annual growth rate of 27.2 percent.
Since hosting the expo in 2004, a total of six ASEAN countries - Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia - have established consulates in the region's capital, Nanning.
Guangxi has established friendly-city links with 52 cities from ASEAN countries, the most in China. It has also attracted nearly 10,000 students from ASEAN countries to study in the region.
During the same period, the annual passenger throughput at Nanning airport increased 11 times, from 1.2 million to 13.9 million. The number of annual inbound tourists in Guangxi increased from 650,000 to 5.1 million, an increase of nearly eight fold.
Wang said that up until now the autonomous region has made great gains in furthering international trade and commercial relations with ASEAN countries, by leveraging the advantages of its unique geographical location.
He added that in the wake of its hosting of the China-ASEAN Expo, Guangxi's influence among ASEAN countries has been enhanced.
In addition to establishing mechanisms for reciprocal visits with ASEAN countries, the forming of cooperative platform mechanisms between Guangxi and ASEAN countries has also made progress.
The region has also promoted cross-border e-commerce between China and ASEAN countries. So far, it has developed an China-ASEAN cross-border e-commerce base.
Industry observers say e-commerce in Guangxi has moved into high gear. The volume of e-commerce transactions in Guangxi increased from 126.6 billion yuan in 2013 to 700 billion yuan in 2017, enjoying average annual growth of 53.3 percent.
Observers added that e-commerce in Guangxi has entered a fast lane of vigorous development. The policy environment for the development of e-commerce has been optimized, and a series of favorable policies and measures have been introduced to accelerate the development of e-commerce in recent years.
An important step for Guangxi's development is the construction of the Southern Transport Corridor, a vital transport artery linking China's western provinces with ASEAN countries through the Beibu Gulf in Guangxi.
The corridor will not only promote the Belt and Road Initiative, or the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, but also benefit deep development and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries.
Local officials said that with the hosting of the China-ASEAN Expo, general awareness of opening up in Guangxi had increased significantly.
Greater foreign exchanges and broadened vision had also provided a positive role for Guangxi's development, they added.
Nearly 10,000 students from ASEAN countries now study in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Zhou Jun/For China Daily