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Expo binge: China's embarrasment of riches

If it''s true that trade shows go where the business is, then there''s further evidence that business is booming in Asia.

Although the SARS outbreak last year disrupted China''s trade show circuit, the expositions carried on with a postponed schedule. The end result in China was four major events coinciding in December alone: Chinaplas in Beijing (4-7); China AP-Plas 2003 in Shanghai (2-5); the Engplast engineering plastics show in Shanghai (2-5); and the China Dongguan International Plastics, Packaging and Rubber Exhibition in Guangdong Province (3-6).

China hosted at least four other major plastics shows during 2003, and newcomers such as CPME 2004 (The First China International Plastic Machinery Exposition) scheduled for April in the injection machine manufacturing capital of Ningbo (around 100 producers are located there) will further crowd the calendar. One might assume this is exhibition overkill, or a case of organizers out to make a quick buck, but the vibrant nature of the plastics processing market in China (see cover story on p. 30) appears to warrant coverage at this level.

Numerous Modern Plastics visits to such shows over the years have generally witnessed packed show floors in terms of both exhibitors and visitors, and real business being done. As one organizer points out, companies wouldn''t put down the dollars to exhibit if they weren''t getting a commensurate return.

Why so many shows? For one thing, travel over long distances within China is difficult enough for many, let alone travel outside the country itself. In fact, some Chinese processors appear to be so busy that they''ll even think twice about traveling a few hours to a show.

Shirley Lok, exhibition manager at Hong Kong-based Paper Communi-cations, says it even makes sense for her company to organize annual plastics shows in the cities of Guangzhou and Dongguan, which are only 30 minutes apart. The newer Dongguan show is now bigger than the Guangzhou event. Dongguan is an industrial city and processing hotbed.

Paper Communications is opting for a similar strategy in Eastern China. Rather than add another show to the Shanghai roster and compete against other organizers, it will organize a show for the first time in Suzhou, which is 90 minutes by highway from Shanghai.

"We''ll get 30 times the number of visitors from Suzhou if the show is hosted there rather than Shanghai," says Lok. The area around Suzhou is home to a fast-growing processing sector, in particular serving the needs of Taiwanese electronics companies.

The country''s desire to absorb the latest technology also sees processing firms wanting to send many of their engineers and technicians to shows. Traveling long distances is impractical as this could end up affecting production operations.

Moreover, different regions in China have traditionally focused on different industry sectors, with southern China centered in Guangzhou and Fujian provinces concentrating on export-oriented light manufacturing; Northern China around Beijing focusing on heavy industry; and Eastern China, centered on Shanghai, a mixture of both. Exhibitors therefore tailor their attendance to different exhibitions to cater for different markets.

Competing exhibitions also have different flavors. Chinaplas, for example, is traditionally dominated by foreign companies, but has a smattering of local Chinese players. Ada Leung, Project Manager of Chinaplas 2003, believes most processors prefer large-scale international trade shows where they can meet the major suppliers in the market all under one roof. Chinaplas has been held 16 times in China since 1983, and it is the only event in China that is supported by EUROMAP (European Committee of Machinery Manufacturers for the Plastics & Rubber Industries).

AP Plas, meanwhile, is dominated by Taiwanese interest, with a good showing from local Chinese players, while the Paper Communications Dongguan and Guangzhou shows have a distinct Hong Kong/Taiwan hue.

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