Guangzhou, China — On the eve of this year's Chinaplas, the organizer of the gigantic trade show is bullish.
"China [plastics] machinery nowadays is No. 1 in terms of volume. China is exporting a lot," Stanley Chu, chairman of Hong Kong-based Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd., told reporters at a May 15 pre-show news conference.
One engine of that growth is Beijing's "One Belt One Road" initiative to drive exports throughout Asia, Europe and Africa, Chu said.
"The One Belt One Road, by focusing on infrastructure linking countries around the world, especially the developing countries, provides a big visitor base for Chinaplas. They're coming here to source material and machinery," Chu said.
Building that infrastructure will require lots of plastics building materials, and that will fuel even more demand, Chu added. "So I see 'One Belt One Road' having a big impact," he said.
The Chinese plastics processing sector has traditionally been pyramid shaped, with legions of small, low-cost enterprises competing against a handful of big, highly automated enterprises at the top, Chu said. The escalating cost of mainland labor is driving the low-end factories to other Asian countries. But those factories, in Indonesia, Vietnam, India and elsewhere, are still a prime market for China's cost-competitive plastics machinery sector.
The annual Chinaplas show alternates between Guangzhou and Shanghai. Last year, 148,575 visitors trouped through the four-day show at the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center, up 15.8 percent from the previous year.
Thirty percent of this year's visitors will be from outside China, Chu predicted. And of those foreign visitors, half will be from other Asian countries.
Ada Leung, Adsale's general manager, said that 3,465 exhibitors will occupy 250,000 square meters at Guangzhou's cavernous China Import & Export Fair Complex for this year's show, which will run from May 16-18. In contrast, 230,000 visitors came to last fall's eight-day K show in Düsseldorf, Germany. That show took up 173,000 square meters (1.9 million square feet) of exhibition space, with nearly 3,300 exhibitors.
However, the K show is held only once every three years, while Chinaplas, like students cramming for final exams and Tomb-Sweeping Day, is an annual rite of spring in China.
Like Mark Twain's death, reports of a slowing China economy are greatly exaggerated. After years of feverish growth, the "New normal means we will drop from double-digit GDP growth, over 10 percent per year, to around 6 or 6.5 percent. This will continue for the coming five years or so," Chu said. That still easily laps the United States' lackluster 1.6 percent GDP growth last year.
"Plastics is one of the sectors experiencing even higher growth," Chu said.
Next year's show will be held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai's Hongqiao district. The show has outgrown the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center, Leung said.