As a fresh batch of imported fruits hit the shelves of a local grocery store in Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, shoppers flocked in large numbers to grab the new arrivals.
Imported fruits such as pink grapefruits and durian from Thailand are no longer a rarity in the market, said Zhang Lichun, manager of a Nanning-based fruit company, adding that fruits from Southeast Asia have been on the company's top-selling list for years.
Connected with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by land and sea, Guangxi has built closer economic ties with ASEAN countries amid China's wider opening-up.
This momentum was visible at the just-concluded 19th China-ASEAN Expo, during which a record 267 domestic and international deals were signed, with an investment of over 400 billion yuan (about $57 billion), up 37 percent from last year.
At the first China-ASEAN Expo in 2004, Trung Nguyen Legend, a leading Vietnamese coffee company, displayed its products, which were well-received by Chinese consumers and have since attracted buyers from all over the country.
"China is one of our most important overseas markets, with more than 300 distributors. This month, our first flagship coffee store will open in Shanghai," said Li Wuqiang, sales director of the Shanghai office of the Vietnam Trung Nguyen Legend Group.
Over the past 19 years, the China-ASEAN Expo has provided a platform to facilitate the entry of ASEAN enterprises into the Chinese market. According to ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, the platform provided by the expo is critical to strengthening business networks and regional connectivity among companies, traders and investors in the region.
China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Official data showed that in the first eight months of this year, trade between China and ASEAN rose 14 percent year on year.
At Qinzhou port in Guangxi's Beibu Gulf, a gateway port to ASEAN nations, tonnes of cargo is shipped every day to overseas markets.
In the first half of the year, the imports and exports between Qinzhou port and ASEAN countries hit 4.88 billion yuan, up 48 percent year on year, with significant increases in trade with Indonesia and Vietnam, according to official data.
The Beibu Gulf Port also serves as an important transit point in the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, a trade and logistics passage.
In the first eight months of this year, the trade corridor saw 498,600 TEU containers transported by the railway intermodal freight trains, up 26.8 percent year on year, according to the China State Railway Group Co Ltd.
"Thanks to improved cold-chain logistics, land transport has gradually replaced air freight to meet our demand of importing more durians, as sales at a local store in Nanning can reach up to 100,000 yuan daily during the peak season," Zhang said.
As Guangxi enhanced its infrastructure construction over the past decade, the region's foreign trade volume with ASEAN countries rose from 74.75 billion yuan in 2012 to 282.12 billion yuan in 2021, an average annual growth rate of 15.8 percent.
DEEPER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
At a smelting workshop belonging to South Manganese Group Ltd, manganese ores are processed into electrolytic manganese dioxide before being sold domestically and exported to Japan as a raw material for batteries.
According to Li Jianjun, general manager of the company's marketing department, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has reduced the tariff on manganese ore in Malaysia, making the industrial chain connecting China, ASEAN and Japan more competitive in the international market, and promoting the development of the regional economy.
Yang Chunting, head of the regional commerce department, said that Guangxi has pushed forward its cross-border industrial, supply and value chains with ASEAN countries in manufacturing, trade, logistics, markets and services.
A shipment of 6,960 bags of prepackaged Luosifen, an iconic dish originating in Liuzhou, Guangxi, and known for its pungent smell, left for Malaysia last month. The smelly yet tasty dish -- a specialty food in the region -- has been sold to dozens of countries and regions worldwide, generating sales revenue of 50 billion yuan last year and boosting the income of over 200,000 rural households.
"Our company began exporting to the ASEAN market in April 2020 and a total of 764,900 bags of Luosifen have been exported to date. The value of Luosifen sold to ASEAN countries in H1 has already exceeded last year's total," said Ou Haoxuan, with Guangxi Luobawang Brand Management Co Ltd, a major Luosifen producer.
Guangxi, with a population of 57 million, has made significant progress on achieving high-quality economic development during the past decade.
Over the past 10 years, the region's gross domestic product has more than doubled, reaching 2.47 trillion yuan in 2021, while 6.34 million people were lifted out of poverty during the period.
In 2021, the per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents in the region increased to 38,530 yuan and 16,363 yuan, respectively, 1.9 times and 2.4 times that of 2012.
Lan Tianli, chairman of Guangxi, said at the expo that Guangxi stands ready to build consensus and deepen cooperation with other parties, jointly promote cross-border financial innovation and strengthen financial infrastructure construction to better serve China-ASEAN trade and investment facilitation.