The second China-CEEC Expo & International Consumer Goods Fair, with the theme of "Fostering a new development paradigm, Sharing a win-win opportunity", was held in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province from June 8 to 11, 2021. Goods were spread in three major exhibition areas, an exhibition dedicated to the central and eastern European countries (CEEC), an exhibition of international consumer goods and a permanent exhibition for imported goods. The event housed over 3,000 booths with registration of 2,000 CEEC exhibitors and 7,500 buyers. A raft of geographical indication (GI) products and intangible cultural heritage (ICH) works from China and CEECs showcased at this expo, leaving a deep impression on local citizens and visitors.
The Laowaitan (Old Bund), located at Ningbo's Jiangbei (River North) District, looked fabulous when the streetlights flickered on. Different kinds of GI products were displayed at the China-CEEC agricultural market, bringing a gastronomic feast and culture to local citizens. The market, as the highlight of the expo's agricultural cooperation activities, exhibited and sold over 800 kinds of distinctive agricultural products from China and CEECs. During the event, Ningbo's century-old brands including Gangyagou and Wang Shengda and local GI products including Ningbo Glutinous rice balls, Xikou multi-layered flatbreads, Liangnong rice cakes, Mochi and Crisp bean candies were invited to make authentic Ningbo snacks on site, which was welcomed by local citizens and tourists.
"I am deeply impressed by the charm of GI products, especially the crispy and sweet Xikou multi-layered flatbread," a tourist surnamed Zhang who strolled through the markets, was not stingy with good words. To him, this event not only brought the traditional cuisine of Ningbo and CEECs together, but also materialized "a bite of feast " on GI products.
The gourmet collision between Laowaitan - Ningbo's own old bund - and CEECs has entered its fourth year, from "a bite of CEEC" to "meeting on the tip of tongue". Laowaitan, as one of China's first port opened to foreign traders, has become a crucial window and platform for the connection between Ningbo and the whole world. As of date, it has also become an important carrier for cultural exchanges between Ningbo and CEEC.
Longjing Tea, named after a Hangzhou location, also grows in Shengzhou, a county in Ningbo, which is known for its tea-roasting skills that makes tea leaves into final product. On June 8, 2021, the China-Europe (Madrid-Yiwu) freight train named "Chunli", loaded with 100 TEUs of Shengzhou tea and tea products, departed from Yiwu West Railway Station in Zhejiang Province, exited the border town Khorgos and was expected to arrive in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan ten days after its departure. As the first tea freight train in the Yangtze River Delta region,Chunli will help revitalize rural areas in Zhejiang via GI products by means of promoting the increase of tea farmers' incomes, driving the upstream and downstream industrial chains and opening up new paths for import and export trade of Zhejiang tea industry. In the meantime, the high-quality GI tea products travel by the "steel camel fleet" to the world, sending the brilliant "tea culture and life" to the countries along the Belt and Road.
Traditional ICH cuisines also stroke a chord with nationwide diners. The booths of ICH were crawling with citizens who satisfied their eyesights and tastes and experienced the exotic CEEC food culture and exquisite Ningbo snacks. "Xiangshan rice bun, as one of Ningbo intangible cultural heritage, has made a hit. I did not expect it to be sold out in one afternoon," a man surnamed Zhu, head of the Xiangshan rice bun booth, said with a smile.
Brands set up the stage for economy to come into play. At this expo, the permanent hall of CEEC goods also opened in Hall 9 of Ningbo International Convention and Exhibition Center. The permanent hall, with its first phase covering an area of 16,000 square meters, can be displayed in three types including a general hall, country-specific hall and boutique brand hall. A total of over 4,000 items were exhibited including alcohols, food, cosmetics and handicrafts, along with well-known branded products such as STENDERS. "This permanent hall not only showcases and promotes traditional and well-known brand products of different countries, but also provides opportunities for new products that have just entered the Chinese market. I believe this project can help Czech products gain a foothold in the Chinese market and attract new customers," said Karel Srol, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Shanghai.
In terms of economic and trade cooperation, trade between China and CEECs has gained a bucking growth against the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the bilateral trade volume first exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars, up 8.4% from 2019. During the first quarter of this year, the bilateral trade volume reached 40.71 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 47.9%. As of date, China has signed 95 documents of customs inspection and quarantine cooperation with 15 CEECs, approving the entrance of 132 kinds of food and dozens of agricultural products from 14 countries. During the past 9 years, China's import volume of agricultural products from CEECs has increased by 9.7% annually, showing the rosy prospects ahead for China-CEEC economic and trade ties.