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CES Asia, Chinese version of the major US tech show, gets scrapped amid trade war and pandemic

Abacus logo Abacus 14/7/2020 Karen Chiu karen.chiu@scmp.com
a man holding a gun: Visitors wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets try a driving system at a Nissan Motors booth during CES Asia in Shanghai on June 11, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg Visitors wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets try a driving system at a Nissan Motors booth during CES Asia in Shanghai on June 11, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg

Even the largest tech convention in the US isn't immune to the country's increasing tensions with China.

CES, known previously as the Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the world's foremost trade shows for cutting-edge technology that could one day show up in our homes. The main event " attended by the likes of Sony and Samsung " takes place annually in Las Vegas. The Asian show has been held in Shanghai since its inception five years ago.

But this week, CES Asia announced on its website that the Shanghai show will stop running, citing "the pandemic, the economy, and our visible role as an American trade association" as reasons for the cancellation.

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"China is an important market and we look forward to improved relations with the US and western world," the organisation said in its statement.

Before its demise, CES Asia was co-organised by CES organiser Consumer Technology Association (CTA) along with two Chinese trade groups: China Electronics Chamber of Commerce and China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products. Last year, the show included Google as one prominent exhibitor in addition to household Chinese names like Baidu and home appliance giants Haier and Suning.

a group of people sitting at a table: Attendees try out Huawei smartphones on display at the company's exhibition stand during CES Asia 2019. Photo: Bloomberg © Provided by Abacus Attendees try out Huawei smartphones on display at the company's exhibition stand during CES Asia 2019. Photo: Bloomberg

This year's CES Asia, originally scheduled for June, was first postponed in March over coronavirus concerns. With the latest announcement, the curtain appears to have come down for good on an event that once held significant promise for its US and Chinese organisers.

The debut of CES Asia in 2015 marked the first time that CES was held outside the US. At the time, CTA CEO Gary Shapiro said the event was expected to "grow and rival the event in Vegas."

But that was a different time.

Since 2018, trade tensions have spiralled between the US and China. The countries have imposed tariffs on each others' goods, while Huawei and a number of other Chinese tech firms have been barred by Washington from accessing US technology.

CTA said last month that it still plans to move ahead with next January's CES in Las Vegas. But it remains to be seen how many Chinese companies will attend.

This year's event saw the number of Chinese participants fall from roughly 1,200 to 1,100, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Amid rising geopolitical tensions, China's trade watchdog offered on-site pro bono legal advice for Chinese exhibitors in case they faced any attempts from US police to seize their products over challenges to intellectual property rights.

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