Keywords of the Greater Bay Area



Linessa Dan Lin

Canton Fair

The Canton Fair, or the China Import and Export Fair, is also known in its brief form as guangjiaohui(广交会)in Chinese.

Long before the Canton Fair, Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) already had a long history of foreign trade. In what Westerners called the Canton System, trade between Chinese and foreign merchants was conducted in the Thirteen Firms in Guangzhou. Even after it no longer enjoyed the status of China's only port for foreign trade, Guangzhou was still an important port city for the nation and continued to play a role in China's foreign trade and international exchange. After the establishment of the People's Republic, China was confronted with economic blockades and goods embargoes imposed by Western countries, leading to the birth of the Canton Fair. An international trade fair has been held in Guangzhou in spring and fall every year, without interruption, since 1957. Not even the Covid-19 pandemic could impose a pause.

The Canton Fair started as a trade show for Chinese exports, intended to promote Chinese products to the rest of the world. Asian businesspeople, including some overseas Chinese, made up the majority of attendees. The fair later developed to include product imports, becoming an import-export event. As a result, the Canton Fair was officially rebranded as the China Import and Export Fair. According to statistics from the organizer, 1,223 international buyers from 19 countries and regions attended when the Canton Fair first opened in spring 1957; by autumn 2019, these numbers had grown to 186,015 and 2141 .

Despite the official brand, "Canton Fair" remains widely used. Streams of people and goods passing through the Baiyun Airport during the biannual trade fair seasons and cargo vessels and shipping containers coming in and out of the Huangpu Port and Guangzhou Port both demonstrate the continuing legend of the city's foreign trade. The Pearl River Delta as "the World Factory" continues to support its central city Guangzhou with its concentrated and relatively inexpensive labor, efficient productivity, and robust transportation networks, maintaining its significance in foreign trade. If Guangzhou is the center of the World Factory, the Canton Fair is the central node of this trading network.

With the shift from the Pearl River Delta to the Greater Bay Area, new technological innovations are being introduced, next generation infrastructure is being constructed, and novel financial networks and logistics routes are being arranged. All of these may offer the Canton Fair more possibilities, or they may bring forth an impact from a multi-center paradigm. In spring 2020, the 127th Canton Fair was held online for the first time due to the pandemic. The fall 2020 one was also held online. Will this become the new normal? We are all witnesses to the Canton Fair's journey, eager to find out whether it can continue its tradition in foreign trade and cultural exchange, and whether it can promote China's smart manufacturing to the rest of the world, particularly at a time when technology develops and information circulates at thunderous speed.

  1. [1] Buyer Attendance of Previous Sessions, China Import and Export Fair, accessed June 27, 2021,
About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange