Confused in Canton

Confused in Canton

The Canton Fair has always been viewed as a good gauge of China’s economic health. But as with the broader economy itself, this year the picture remains unclear. That is to say, key media seem to have drawn different conclusions as to whether the event – at which foreign buyers place orders with Chinese exporters – is going well.

For example, the China Daily thought not. It reckoned that attendances had dwindled, headlining its article “Grim global outlook dampens Canton Fair”. A spokesperson for the fair told the newspaper that exhibitors were “not optimistic” and the oversupply of interpreters was a sign of fewer foreign buyers showing up. The spokesperson attributed the downbeat mood to “flagging external demand, rising trade frictions and the rising value of the yuan”. All in all, the state-run newspaper took the line that activity at the Canton Fair was sluggish and that was bad news for exports.

The New York Times took a different – altogether more bullish – tack. “Buyers from around the world thronged the cavernous halls of the Canton Fair at its opening day on Monday as a new and somewhat more optimistic mood seemed to take hold among Chinese exporters,” it proclaimed. The newspaper’s reporter spoke to the sales manager of Ningbo Dabu Welding Technology who claimed sales were “getting better”. And unlike the gloomier China Daily, The New York Times saw signs of a turnaround: “With a few exceptions, exporters of products as varied as hammers, electric fans and gaudy wall decorations for nightclubs said that demand from emerging markets and the United States was beginning to recover.”

Given such contradictory reports, it’s difficult to say what lessons we should draw. Only time will tell…

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