By David Reed, UT EditorShanghai, People’s Republic of China—Under a cloudy sky, but with the temperature and humidity soaring almost as high as the Chinese economy, the fifth PU China event opened 31 Aug, here in the country’s major industrial centre. Hundreds of exhibition visitors queued outside to watch the official opening, where they were welcomed by Gao Fulai, vice president of China MinMetals Corp., speaking on behalf of the three co-organisers of the event: MinMetals, Industrial Promotions International BV of Goor, the Netherlands, and Crain Communications Ltd of London. Wu Genbao of the trade promotion department in the Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Commission of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government was also in attendance to welcome the visitors from all over China, to what has become established as the main informational event for the country’s polyurethanes industry.Other dignitaries present at the official opening ceremony included Zheng Huaiman and Zhang Jie from the China Polyurethane Association, Yang Weicai of the China Petrochemical Industry Association as well as Tony Kenter and Paul Mitchell, representing the western creators of the event, IPI and Crain Communications, respectively.In addition, senior managers of several of the major foreign firms investing in China’s polyurethanes industry were present, including Teng Kang from BASF China Ltd, Frank Grunert of Bayer MaterialScience, Giuseppe Caruccio from Dow Italia SpA and Toshio Nazawa from Mitsui Takeda Chemicals and Charles Ng representing the China National Offshore Oil Co. and Shell Petrochemicals Co. Ltd businesses. These firms between them are investing billions of US dollars in major worldscale facilities for making key raw materials for polyurethane manufacture, such as MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate), TDI (toluene diisocyanate), and propylene oxide and polyether polyols."The PU China exhibition, which has been held five times up till now, is the most important event in PU circles," said Gao, the MinMetals vice president in his welcoming remarks. "Its continued success greatly promotes the world PU industry, it gives technology improvement, and production and trade development."The exhibition reaches nearly 7000 m2 area, and nearly 8000 visitors [are expected]," he continued. Finally, Gao said, "I express my thanks to all the leaders and VIPs and visitors attending this exhibition. Best wishes for a great success of the PU China 2004."Once the doors of the Shanghai Mart centre were opened, over 3000 visitors poured into the PU China 2004 exhibition in just the first hour and a half, all eager to meet representatives of the more than 150 companies present. The final count for the day, at 4500, gave a strong start to the event; and more than 1500 new exhibition visitors were registered on the second day of the event, bringing the total for the first two days to more than 6000.The exhibitors, in turn, were also keen to meet their existing and potential new customers, hoping to hold or expand their share of the rapid growth of China’s polyurethanes business, now hurtling towards becoming a 2 million-tonnes-a-year business—almost a fifth of the global total. The fact that about half of the exhibitors are Chinese companies shows how far the country has come since the very first PU China event, back in 1995. At that event, held in Beijing, only a handful of Chinese firms was present, and their modest exhibition stands were outshone by the professionally designed and built stands of the foreign exhibitors. In the present event, however, several of the major Chinese company stands were indistinguishable from those of what must now be called their foreign competitors.While sheer numbers don’t necessarily mean a lot here in China, various exhibitors reported meeting presidents and senior commercial and technical managers within several of the leading Chinese polyurethane processing enterprises during just the first day of the event. Some companies even reported taking orders for materials at the PU China event, an unusual happening for a trade show where the direct returns are usually hard to quantify until several months after the event.One thing is for sure: the profile of the polyurethanes industry in China just took another giant leap forwards."