The transformation of the Chinese society has been truly tangible this week at the Shanghai landmark event to promote foreign trade. While endless stonefaced soldiers guard the entrance to the CIIE, the first ever China International Import Expo, inside the massive 300 000 square meter flower-shaped convention centre and around the city 5000 volunteers do their very best to serve the visitor masses with a smile on faces.
Traditionally known for its exports, China is now turning around and has full focus on imports. With sustained economic growth and growing standards of living, China is rapidly becoming an appealing end market for goods and services from all corners of the world.
The CIIE has attracted some 150 countries, scores of trade delegations and 3000 businesses to showcase what they have to offer the Chinese consumers and industries. Highlighting the shift in mood and policies, digital giants like Google and Facebook - earlier banned in China -are strongly present at CIIE, joined by many global top 500 companies.
At the wake of the event, president Xi Jinping was quite vocal about opening the market for trade and local operations in many new ways. Addressing some of the key reservations western businesses may have, Xi committed to improving IPR protection, to bringing down taxes and fees, and to streamlining administrative approval processes. The ambition is to establish ”a fair and transparent business environment, aligned with international rules”.
Maritime leadership underpins the ”New China”
One major milestone is the formal launch of the first Chinese-built luxury cruise vessels, which took place at CIIE. In cooperation with the Italian shipbuilding giant Fincantieri and the world’s biggest cruise operator Carnival Corporation, the China State Shipbuiding Company CSSC starts to design and construct two luxury cruise ships, specifically targeted at the Chinese clientele. These Vista-class ships are 324 meter long, have the capacity of 5346 passengers, and will be delivered in 2023 and 2024. They are expected to underpin how ”made in China” has a new meaning - thus they have to be of highest standard once operational.
Cruise vessels are among the world’s most complex and detailed industrial projects - and very visible one’s also - so these Vista-ships are a true acid test for China. Passing the test requires deep partnership with established European players, and scores of imported know-how and technology; for both for powering and operating the vessels and for creating a compelling customer experience onboard.
In it for the long run
Wärtsilä has witnessed the change of the Chinese economy and society for decades, and we have played a part in the journey of China becoming the world’s main shipbuilding nation. With operations in China since 1986 Wärtsilä today has more than 1500 employees working in the country. Our foremost joint venture partner is CSSC, which has grown to be the biggest shipyard in the world. Within the long-standing partnership we together build propulsion, engine and automation technology for the environmentally advanced fleet of the future.
During CIIE, Wärtsilä took yet another leap, by becoming a preferred partner for CSSC in constructing Chinese-made cruise vessels in years to come. At Wärtsilä we welcome China’s invitation for technology imports and certainly feel the mutual benefits. We look forward at providing innovative cutting-edge technology for safe and clean, digitally advanced maritime operations - on Chinese waters and all the seven seas.