By Tian Yuan; translated by Gao Jing
The First China International Import Expo (CIIE), opening on November 5, 2018 in Shanghai, has attracted a total of 82 countries and three international organizations to showcase their achievements in economic and trade development as well as competitive products at their booths in the Country Pavilion for Trade and Investment at the CIIE. Twelve Guests of Honor, namely Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, Russia, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, have set up their own characteristic pavilions.
Prior to the event, Indonesian Consul-General in Shanghai Siti Mauludiah recounted Indonesia’s preparation for the CIIE and shared her views on China-Indonesia economic and trade cooperation in an interview with China Report ASEAN.
China Report ASEAN: Indonesian exhibitors at the CIIE will present batik, which is known as a “national treasure” of Indonesia. Could you describe the fabric to us?
Siti Mauludiah: First, I want to express my sincere thanks to you for wearing a shirt made of Indonesian batik. A cloth made using a wax-resistant dyeing technique, batik is an important piece of Indonesian culture. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Indonesian batik a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Endowed with a vast territory and abundant resources, Indonesia is home to diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Influenced by a variety of cultures and customs, the fabric varies from region to region in terms of material, color, pattern and symbolic meaning as well as quality of workmanship. With a history of hundreds of years, traditional hand-made batik is very popular in the high-end garment customization market. Each piece of the cloth takes years to finish and every pattern tells a story.
Not only will hand-made batik products be displayed at the event, but also batik garments mass produced by machines. Some of them feature pattern designs inspired by items in Chinese pop culture. I believe products like these offer Chinese consumers more buying-decision choices and greater artistic enjoyment along the process.
China Report ASEAN: What efforts need to be made to promote cultural products with strong regional characteristics like batik in the Chinese market?
Siti Mauludiah: China-Indonesia cooperation has yielded fruitful results in recent years, but we are fully aware that profound understanding between different cultures cannot be achieved overnight. In Chinese cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou, for example, people always seem ready to embrace Indonesian culture. They think batik is beautiful, but have yet to figure out how to commercialize it in the Chinese fashion industry, so there still isn’t a batik shop in Shanghai. Contrasting the situation in China, batik products are very popular in Hollywood, New York City and Tokyo. Both China and Indonesia need to explore channels and build platforms for the commercialization of batik in the Chinese market.
The Sarong is another type of traditional Indonesian garment, usually worn at religious ceremonies and particularly popular in Bali. When introducing the sarong to the Chinese market, specific national and social conditions should be taken into consideration. The CIIE provides us with a great opportunity to showcase Indonesian cultural products in Shanghai to hone our strategies before entering the Chinese market. Earlier this year, we held a batik fashion show at the Indonesian Culture and Arts Center in Shanghai as a warm-up. Participants experienced Indonesian culture by making batik and serving as “batik ambassadors.”
China Report ASEAN: What other types of Indonesian products will be presented at the CIIE?
Siti Mauludiah: During my stay in China over the last two years, I have gained a deeper understanding of the achievements China has made during its reform and opening-up, especially the well-rounded development of Chinese society at large. The CIIE highlights a significant increase in China’s comprehensive strength, especially its growing power of consumption. The Indonesian government, business associations and exhibitors all attach great importance to the event because it offers them a great opportunity to open up the Chinese market and cooperate with Chinese partners. Indonesian coffee producers now have the second largest market share in China after Nestlé. They hope to overtake Nestlé in 2019 with the help of the CIIE. Sales of Indonesian biscuits and instant noodles in China increased by 100 percent in 2017. Encouraged by the CIIE, Indonesian companies in these sectors foresee growth rates of over 50 percent by the end of 2018.
Edible bird’s nests and tourism industries are also enjoy promising prospects in the Chinese market. Today, edible bird’s nests from Indonesia enjoy a 70 percent market share in China which is expected to increase after the CIIE. As for the tourism industry, our promotion is focused on “top 10 new destinations rivaling Bali” to attract more Chinese tourists in the process of consumption upgrade.
China Report ASEAN: What do Indonesian government and exhibitors plan to do to expand in the Chinese market?
Siti Mauludiah: The internet economy is booming in China, especially the e-commerce sector. In major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou, I feel like I am living in a developed economy and a world digital economic center. The rapid development of e-commerce is also playing an important role in improving lives in small towns and rural areas. We have enhanced our network marketing on online shopping platforms during the annual Indonesian Week held in China. During the Week we have also organized offline promotional events in hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and museums. Established in 2012, the Indonesian Consulate General in Shanghai is committed to providing support to both Chinese and Indonesian groups in such areas as imports and exports, visa application, public education, customs clearance and legal aid. In my daily work, I have noticed cultural understanding is greatly significant in deepening bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
During the CIIE, we will do our best to provide an array of services to Indonesian exhibitors. We will also organize a series of activities like language training, cultural exchange events and fashion salons to help build closer connections between Indonesian exhibitors and Chinese importers as well as between Indonesian producers and Chinese consumers.