Yearender: Cross-border e-commerce booms in China, boosting international cooperation

Updated: December 17, 2021 Source: Belt and Road Portal
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An employee packs goods at a warehouse of e-commerce platform Kilimall in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Yang Zhen)

Cross-border e-commerce in China ushers in a "golden period" with rapid development after years of accumulation. 

In the first half of 2021, China's cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached 886.7 billion yuan, increasing by 28.6 percent year on year with a market size of 6.05 trillion yuan, statistics shows. 

Since the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), the cross-border e-commerce has become a new impetus for foreign trade, a new channel for transformation and upgrading, and a new focus for high-quality development.

-- Thriving under the emerging policies

The General Office of the State Council issued a guideline this July to improve the supporting policies for the industry development such as applying cross-border e-commerce business-to-business (B2B) direct export nationwide as well as supervision of overseas warehouse.

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) rolled out the assessment and withdrawal mechanism of cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot zones to optimize the list of pilot zones and phase out the unqualified ones. By 2025, China will build a batch of industrial parks at the cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot zones to form innovative clusters with diversified entities, elements and professional service.

The MOC released the plan for high-quality development of foreign trade during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) this November to optimize the supervision of cross-border e-commerce retail imports, explore innovation in the whole process of cross-border e-commerce trade, and assist enterprises in building a flexible supply chain with clustering elements and quick response.

The MOC also promised to formulate guidelines to establish online service platforms and other infrastructure, and consolidate a number of leading enterprises and industrial parks with new competitive strengths.

More efforts will be urged to expand the cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot zones to enhance quality and efficiency in foreign trade as well as promote digital global trade and green trade, said Ren Hongbin, Vice Minister of Commerce.

Local governments also formulate policies to support cross-border e-commerce.

Enterprises are encouraged to establish independent stations for cross-border e-commerce and the ones with a large scale will be granted with financial subsidies in Guangdong Province.

Meanwhile, Hainan Provincial Administration for Market Regulation sets up a new supervision mechanism for cross-border e-commerce based on the big data technology.

-- Logistics bringing goods across the globe

The faster international logistics accelerates the goods transportation of medium- and small-sized cross-border e-commerce enterprises to go across the globe and becomes an important mainstay in foreign trade.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, overseas consumers' shopping habits changed a lot while "unchanged" cross-border logistics boomed as one of the core competitiveness in cross-border e-commerce industry, according to Tang Guohua, an employee with Cainiao, a the logistics arm of Alibaba Group.

Therefore, Cainiao and AliExpress jointly launched "5 U.S. dollars delivery within 10 days", a cross-border courier service aimed to provide cheaper, faster and safer transportation service for merchants and consumers.

As one the of critical infrastructure of cross-border e-commerce, the overseas warehouses has expanded to guarantee the storage of goods.

China has built up to 1,900 overseas warehouses all over the world with a total area of 13.5 million square meters, with warehouses in North America, Europe and Asia accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total, the MOC's data showed.

The orderly operating of China-Europe freight train also guarantees the timely carriage of cross-border parcels. Since June this year, an increase number of trains have been launched to inject impetus into the development of cross-border e-commerce.

A China-Europe freight train serving for cross-border e-commerce export service at China (Anhui) Pilot Free Trade Zone was officially launched this June, marking a step forward in the industry.

On November 28, another China-Europe freight train loaded with more than 36,500 items of cross-border e-commerce goods such as clothes, toys, and daily necessities departed from Urumqi Free Trade Zone after customs clearance and will arrive in Budapest, the capital of Hungary in 20 days.

-- Stepping up international cooperation

Cross-border e-commerce is now soaring as a new form of foreign trade with rapid growth pace, promising prospects and strong driving force.

China has stepped up international cooperation on cross-border e-commerce with many countries.

Up to now, China has established the "Silk Road e-commerce" bilateral cooperation mechanism with 22 countries on fields such as policy communication and industry facilitation as part of the country's efforts to share market opportunities with the Belt and Road Countries.

Cross-border e-commerce has now grown as the dominant model in the e-commerce market with more than half of the total e-commerce transactions finished in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report by Visa Consulting and Analytics, a transnational financial service provider.

Kilimall, a major e-commerce platform in east Africa's Kenya founded by Chinese entrepreneur Yang Tao in 2014, saw a doubled e-commerce trade volume since the outbreak of COVID-19. 

African consumers switched from offline shopping to online shopping due to the pandemic, bringing an opportunity for the development of e-commerce, said Lu Xiaoyong, a manager of Kilimall.

With the prevailing of smartphones, advancement of mobile payment conditions and declining mobile charges in Africa, the mobile service in Africa is expected to surge by 2025 which brings opportunities for China-Africa e-commerce cooperation.

China's healthy cyberspace ecology is impressive, and Africa may learn from China's mature experience in e-commerce market cultivation, digital payment and logistics management, said Muda Yusuf, director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

Over the past few years, he has led Nigerian enterprises to attend the China International Import Expo (CIIE) and witnessed the potential of African products in the Chinese market with a further expectation to introduce more African products to China through the e-commerce platforms and share the opportunities in China's market. (Tian Shenyoujia)

Editor: Yao Xinyuan