Organizers of the massive Chinaplas trade fair are sounding a hopeful note about holding the show next year amid the coronavirus, even as the pandemic continues to raise questions about large exhibitions.
At a June 23 online news conference, Chinaplas organizers expressed confidence in China's systems of tracing and quarantining to control outbreaks and noted exhibitions have recently resumed in that country.
That comes, however, amid other questions about the safety of trade shows. Austrian plastics machinery maker Wittmann Group posted a statement on its website June 22 that it was withdrawing from Germany's prominent Fakuma show in October over concerns that large gatherings are "an ideal breeding ground for a renewed outbreak of the COVID-19 virus."
As well, other plastics shows in Taiwan and Japan, scheduled for September and October, have been postponed or canceled over virus concerns.
But executives with Hong Kong-based Adsale Exhibitions Services, which runs Chinaplas, said China has built systems to detect and contain outbreaks.
"I think the concern is there, obviously, but on the other hand, this concern reflects the unique advantage of Chinaplas, because Chinaplas will be staged in China, and China ... was the first country with the pandemic outbreak in December last year," said Adsale Chairman Stanley Chu. "In the past six months or so, China has already developed a very good system of testing, of quarantining, of exercising social distancing and also with checking of virus carriers. It has now a very good system in place."
Since the virus first ravaged the central Chinese city of Wuhan this winter, Chu said the country has seen outbreaks in Beijing and in Heilongjiang, in the north of the country, but it has been able to contain them.
"There are bound to be individual cases still appearing in coming months, but we think in China these individual cases are being put under control," Chu said.
Adsale General Manager Ada Leung said that exhibitions in China resumed this month, adding that a show was held in the last few days at the Shenzhen World Exhibition and Convention Center, where Chinaplas is scheduled for April 13-16.
"As I learned from my team, which visited the fair [at Shenzhen World], everything is going back to normal," she said. "We know that some other shows are also resuming in some other cities like Shanghai."
Chu said Adsale and other shows are adopting upgraded hygiene and safety protocols as the exhibition industry adopts a "new normal."
"There are a lot of experiences and good practices," he said. "We'll learn from others and put all these methods in good order."
Adsale officials also pointed to economic data that China's plastics industry is rebounding in the second quarter. They said production of plastic goods fell 4.2 percent in China in the January to May period, to 27.55 million tons, but within May, rose 9.2 percent to 6.69 million tons.
As well, they said, plastics machinery production dropped a stunning 68 percent from January to April, to 50,500 machines. But the figures for April showed a rebound, with 26,400 machines produced in that month, equal to the production in the first three months combined. That's a 27 percent jump from April 2019, Adsale said.
But global trade remained tougher. Adsale said figures show both imports and exports of plastics machinery dropped in the January to April period. Imports into China dropped 21 percent, to $523 million, while exports fell 8.5 percent, to $729 million.
Chu said the fair wants to put more emphasis on China's domestic market.
"We are paying more attention to domestic demand in China," he said. "China now has the world's second-largest economy and a rising middle class. That's why the strong domestic market has been a very important focus for us."
Adsale said they're beefing up online business matchmaking platforms as well.
Earlier this year, the company first postponed Chinaplas, originally slated for April in Shanghai, to September. But then they opted to cancel it entirely, leaving Shenzhen in 2021 as the next edition.
Adsale said that 90 percent of exhibitors for 2021 have so far confirmed participation and the company estimates more than 3,600 exhibiting companies will attend the fair. The last edition, 2019 in Guangzhou, had more than 160,000 attendees.