SHANGHAI - China will use a giant import fair next week to showcase its free trade credentials, temper criticism of its policies and deepen its global economic influence at a time of fresh uncertainty over the China-United States trade war.
The week-long China International Import Expo (CIIE) - to be held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC) in Shanghai - comes at a critical moment, following Chile's withdrawal as host of an APEC summit in mid-November.
The US and China had hoped to sign a deal to ease trade tensions at the meeting in South America. US President Donald Trump said the deal would still happen, although the venue remains unclear, reported Reuters.
Critics have said CIIE, which was launched last year, is mostly symbolic, and argue that a six-day fair focused on buying foreign goods does little to address the structural issues that underpin critiques of Beijing's trade and economic practices.
But for China, which will host more than 3,000 companies and several foreign leaders at the event - including French President Emmanuel Macron - it is part of a bigger drive to cast its economy in a new light and bolster its global role.
Underscoring how important the Chinese government sees CIIE, Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver the opening remarks on Tuesday.
American business will be well represented at the expo, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told Reuters there would be more American companies taking part this year than the last.
The exhibition space in the vast, clover-shaped NECC has been expanded by 11% to more than 300,000sqm, according to state media, or roughly five times the size of the Louvre Museum.