‘Even bigger glory’: Xi Jinping seeks to boost confidence with Yiwu market stroll

President Xi Jinping’s visit to Chinese manufacturing hub Yiwu this week was a symbolic gesture at a time when the economy is slowing and Beijing is keen to beat the drum for private business, analysts say.

State television on Friday aired footage of Xi being given a warm welcome when he visited Yiwu International Trade City – the biggest wholesale market for small manufactured goods in the world – in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

“[I hope] the small commodities and big market of Yiwu will continue to thrill and achieve even bigger glory,” Xi told shopkeepers and owners during his visit to the market on Wednesday.

Xi Jinping was given a warm welcome at the market. Photo: Xinhua
Xi’s visit was described by official news agency Xinhua as a “field research trip” and a clear signal to promote development and boost economic confidence.

The Chinese leader was accompanied by his chief of staff Cai Qi, the Communist Party’s head of personnel Li Ganjie, top economic planner Zheng Shanjie and provincial leaders as he strolled through the market and chatted with workers.

Xi is in Zhejiang to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Saturday, where he will host several foreign leaders attending the sporting event. They include Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

Professor Xie Maosong, a senior researcher with the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, said Xi’s visit to Yiwu came at an “opportune moment” after Beijing unveiled measures to support the private sector and boost confidence among entrepreneurs.

“Yiwu is a symbol of China’s export capability and economic vibrancy that’s well known to the outside world. Xi’s visit to Yiwu is a clear political message to encourage China’s entrepreneurs to continue to do business with the world,” Xie said.

He also noted that Yiwu is the starting point of the China-Europe freight train route – a project under the Belt and Road Initiative – that links the city with Europe’s largest small-commodity distribution centre in the Spanish capital Madrid.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of both the train route and Xi’s vast belt and road infrastructure scheme.


China’s Belt and Road, 10 years on

China’s Belt and Road, 10 years on

But Alfred Wu, an associate professor with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said it would take more than a gesture from Xi to reassure private business in China.

“Beijing needs to do more to repair the confidence of the private sector – Chinese entrepreneurs need more than rhetoric. They probably need to examine their policy towards state-owned enterprises and the private sector in the past decade,” Wu said, referring to policies that favour the state sector.

Yiwu has transformed from an impoverished city decades ago to the world’s biggest centre exporting small manufactured goods. It exported 336.04 billion yuan (US$46 billion) worth of goods in the first eight months of this year – up 20.4 per cent from the same period of 2022.

According to the Xinhua report, it sells nearly 2.1 million different manufactured goods that are shipped to almost every corner of the globe.


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