context: Different kinds of in-person trade fairs have been a major channel for traders to reach new clients and secure orders. With the zero-COVID policy shifting these fairs online or preventing such gatherings, many SMEs have struggled to effectively pitch new products and maintain their foreign client base.

The 132nd China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) will be held online starting on 15 Oct 2022. More than three million exhibits have been uploaded since 15 Sep 2022, and 34,744 firms have registered for the export exhibition, 40 percent up from last year. Meanwhile, 416 foreign firms from 34 countries and regions have signed up to display their products to Chinese buyers.

A key change is that from this year the Canton Fair’s online platform services will be extended from ten days to five months, allowing more time for buyers and sellers to connect remotely. In addition, the Fair has invited large retail chains and industrial wholesalers to participate online, deepening collaboration with domestic professional business associations and procurement groups.

According to Caixin, over 200 trade expos that were scheduled in October 2022 have been delayed due to pandemic control requirements, including industries such as furniture and home appliances, clothing and textiles, automobile, food, architecture and entertainment. While some expos, such as the Ningbo Cross-border E-commerce Export Expo, were rescheduled to take place in H1 2023, others were cancelled or suspended without any announcement of rescheduling.