China Market Insider China International Machine Tool Show 2021

From Henrik Bork*

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Recently, the CIMT (China International Machine Tool Show 2021) took place in Beijing, China. Right at the forefront: the European machine tool industry. These are the most important impressions of the fair.

China Market Insider answers the current questions about the Chinese market.
China Market Insider answers the current questions about the Chinese market.
(Source: ©Eisenhans -

This time, 870 Chinese and 633 international exhibitors presented their goods and services at the ‘China International Machine Tool Show.’ The trade show, which takes place every two years, has been one of the most important dates in the annual calendar for the European machine tool industry for years as China is now the world's second-largest export market for the industry. This year, when Corona is still slowing down the economy in many places and throwing a spanner in the works for trade fair organizers, its importance has increased once again.

He expects "significant growth" for his company in China in the coming years, Norbert Wiest, Managing Director of German Werkzeugmaschinen (SW) in China, told the Chinese editorial staff of MM Maschinenmarkt, a sister medium of ETMM, at the show. "The Chinese economy is currently the most stable economy on earth," Wiest said (see video at the end of this article)

SW, which is based in Mössingen, Germany, has also been producing at its plant in Suzhou, China, south of Shanghai, since 2016, including machines and complete, automated production lines for automotive and mechanical engineering, precision engineering, and other industries.

2019 was a challenging year, Wiest mentioned in an interview with MM (China), but "since the fourth quarter of 2020, the receipt of orders has become much better again, and we expect a very successful year in 2021." Among other things, he said, he is confident of China's Government promoting several key industries.

The manager also opined that business at the trade show in Beijing also reflected the experience of many other manufacturers from Europe. German machine builders for instance, which in 2020 sold mainly machining centers, grinding machines, lathes, and parts and accessories to China, their orders rose 17 % overall in the fourth quarter of 2020, reported the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW), which was also represented at CIMT in Beijing.

Because the Corona crisis is still making travel difficult and there was a mandatory quarantine of several weeks in China after arriving from abroad, the trade fair was not quite as international as usual this time. For example, at the previous CIMT in 2019, foreign exhibitors still outnumbered Chinese companies (874 international versus 838 Chinese). This year, it was reversed.

Also, significantly fewer managers from Europe or other countries were able to travel to CIMT in person. Because of the Corona travel restrictions, "German manufacturers were mainly represented through their Chinese subsidiaries," said Wilfried Schäfer, Managing Director of the VDW in Frankfurt, Germany.

Nevertheless, those who were on-site in Beijing were finally able to enjoy a regular trade fair with ordinary encounters. Erwin Geissler, Managing Director of Swiss-based United Grinding (China), focused on explaining his business model to potential customers. One is not a "catalog seller" but sells customized applications, Geissler told MM (China). "If someone has a problem, we solve it," he said. He added that his business in China has been largely spared by the pandemic and that he, too, is "looking positively into the future for all business areas" in China.

The Swiss are thus right on trend, just like many German and other European suppliers. For years now, the CIMT trade show has been developing more and more from an exhibition of more or less large machines into an essential place for exchanging information about automated, advanced manufacturing processes. In China, another fortunate circumstance is that Beijing's central planners, in the course of modernizing their domestic manufacturing industry, often promote precisely those sectors from which the most important customers come from.

His machines, which he presented at this year's CIMT, are needed precisely for those key sectors that are now also being promoted by the Chinese Government, Ignacio Alfayate, Managing Director of Group Nicolás Correa Asia, told MM (China) reporters at the show. For the international milling machine manufacturer, who hails from Burgos in Spain, these key sectors include aerospace, wind turbines, and wind energy. 2020 was, therefore, a "record year" for his company in China, according to Alfayate. He also has more to say in our video on this page.

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Overall, a cautious optimism ran through all the talks at CIMT 2021. Because of the Chinese economy humming again, the worst part of the corona crisis was over, at least for the industry's business in China. The demand for modern production technology from Germany is still huge in China, said Wilfried Schäfer from the VDW on the occasion of the trade fair.

The video features exclusive bytes from the following industry leaders:

  • Erwin Geissler, General Manager at United Grinding China
  • Ignacio Alfayate, General Manager at Group Nicolás Correa Asia
  • Jon Penvose, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Leadec China
  • Norbert Wiest, Managing Director of Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen

* Henrik Bork is Managing Director at Asia Waypoint, a Beijing-based consulting agency. ‘China Market Insider’ is a joint project of the Vogel Communications Group, Würzburg, and Jigong Vogel Media Advertising in Beijing.