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Business trends

China's largest trade show struggles to excite in virtual format

Canton Fair turns to domestic buyers under Xi's 'dual circulation' strategy

It just isn't the same: A vendor hawks socks at the now-online-only Canton Fair. (Photo by Takashi Kawakami)

GUANGZHOU -- Usually at this time of year, some 190,000 buyers from around the globe would descend on Guangzhou for China's biggest trade show, visiting booth after booth to give the latest products a whirl. But the Canton Fair's organizers seem to be learning the hard way in 2020 that the experience does not translate smoothly to screens.

A fully virtual edition of the semiannual show opened Thursday, with about 26,000 exhibitors from sellers of household goods to machinery makers showcasing well over 2 million items for 10 days.

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