David Buxbaum, who worked at an international law firm, was one of the first participants from the United States to take part in the spring session of the Chinese Export Commodities Fair, which is also known as the Canton Fair, held in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in April 1972, after US President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China earlier in the year.
"We applied for an invitation to the Canton Fair under the form of a commercial company," Buxbaum wrote in a recent article.
Since this was the first public invitation to a US firm since Oct 1, 1949, it made news throughout the world, especially in the US. "For some time after this invitation, I was invited to appear on many TV programs, was regularly interviewed by reporters and was temporally an alleged expert on all things Chinese, including spring rolls," he said.
Buxbaum studied Chinese history, culture, geography, language and contemporary Chinese law, concurrent with his legal studies.
The fair itself was important for China as a venue bearing a major share of the country's export transactions back in 1972, 89-year-old Buxbaum recalled at the Guangzhou office of international law firm Anderson & Anderson LLP, where he works as a senior partner, on Thursday.
Statistics showed more than half of China's exports were generated at the fair in 1972 before China adopted the reform and opening-up policy in 1978.
Buxbaum and his colleagues assisted many US companies in their contract negotiations with Chinese trading companies at the spring, or the 31st session, of the Canton Fair in 1972.
After the fair, he divided his time between the US and China, providing legal services. "Because commodities were an important part of US-China trade, and China's foreign trade with the rest of the world, our firm was active in commodities law practice in China and the US, including drafting and negotiating contracts, registering commodity traders and exchanges, and litigating and arbitrating commodities disputes."
China's imports and exports stood at $6.3 billion in 1972 but at a whopping $6.05 trillion in 2021.
Since its inception in 1957, the fair, which was renamed China Import and Export Fair in 2007, has been embracing the trend of digital development, and the exhibition mode has thus made progress from face-to-face to screen-to-screen, and then to online-offline integration.
He described the changes in China in the past five decades as miraculous and something that no one could have anticipated, with the country having become the world's second-largest economy.
The Canton Fair this year, running from April 15 to 24 online, displays more than 3 million exhibits, including 950,000 new items, ranging from food, medicine and healthcare products, to sporting, tourism and leisure goods, toys, and office stationery, by Wednesday, according to the event's organizing committee.