Guangzhou last week proudly gave 3,800 overseas Chinese students a look at its latest showcase architectural landmark - Asia's largest convention and exhibition centre - when it hosted the fifth Guangzhou Convention of Overseas Chinese Students in Science and Technology Exchange. The city government pressured the contractor so hard that construction was finished in just 20 months to allow authorities to showcase the latest symbol of efforts to raise Guangzhou's international profile. Although China has a growing exhibitions market, there was really no need to speed up construction, as the centre will remain mostly empty this year and next because the government's zeal has not been matched by marketing and promotion efforts. Nor has the issue of competition with the China Export Commodity Fair, which organises massive exhibitions every spring and autumn, been resolved. When the city government finally gets its act together, the centre looks set to grab a big slice of the trade-show business because it is located near factories - and local exports account for 40 per cent of the country's total. Guangzhou's two main rivals in Asia - the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre - are both full this year. In the meantime, Guangzhou's four billion yuan (HK$3.81 billion), Japanese-designed centre may become a stop on the tourist itinerary, like the Olympic-sized stadium built for the Ninth National Games. This is currently empty, but is intended to be used for the 2010 Asian Games, should the city win the right to host them. In the meantime, city planners may do well to look at the construction of five-star hotels, shops and recreational facilities in the neighbourhood.