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Monday 15 June the delayed 2020 Canton Trade Fair took off, under the pressure of the global coronavirus crisis fully online. The question is: will it work to take this traditional and very prestigious gathering for China’s import and export industries take off. Will old friends join online and will the conference be able to generate new business?

The event mirrors the dilemma for many event organizers. Yes, at this stage of the coronavirus crisis events like this are impossible to hold in another way than online. But can any online event even partially replace the major gathering we have seen over the past decades? While e-commerce is a no-brainer for anybody in China, it is less clear whether international contacts are equally eager to join this online initiative.

In this report of the South China Morning Post, the sentiment among the Chinese participants is not enthusiastic, despite firm support from the government and internet giant Tencent:

Even in the era of e-commerce, the Canton Fair, which started in 1957, remains a key platform for Chinese exporters to showcase products. But few are optimistic about the prospects of the online event.

“We checked with veteran foreign buyers and found disappointedly that they have little interest in the virtual fair,” said Jason Liang, a sales manager at a Guangzhou-based exporter of electronic products.

“Most come to the Canton Fair every year for two main purposes: first to exchange product information on the ground with others across the world, and second to visit their Chinese suppliers’ factories and review production capacity and quality.

We will be following the proceedings at the online fair, and see what we can learn from it. Are you interested in our plans to move our China speakers online too, and want to share you (online) experiences with events in these corona times? Do check out our plans.

Update: Reviews of the ten-day event are not really encouraging, write the South China Morning Post as the event has ended.

Are you looking for more of our stories on the coronavirus? Do check this list.


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