Technology Jun 02

Rural e-commerce grows as China’s stay-at-home economy thrives

Thousands of new firms take advantage of stimulus measures and open e-commerce channels to serve distant communities during coronavirus lockdown and beyond

by Nadeem Xu, Chris Gill
Rural e-commerce grows as China’s stay-at-home economy thrives
Click and collect: China's hinterland plugs into digital economy during coronavirus.  

(ATF) Government initiatives to support rural consumption has seen a rapid growth of the e-commerce sector in remote parts of China.

More than 87,000 rural e-commerce enterprises have been registered this, up 13.6% from a year ago, according to database query platform Tianyancha.com Sunday. 

Also, more than 8,000 rural companies have added e-commerce, online sales or other related businesses to their revenue channels, the figures showed.

As the coronavirus epidemic dented consumption in the countryside, China has been encouraging innovative ways to tap market potential, especially in the countryside.

County chiefs and city mayors were encouraged to promote local products via livestreaming, with more than four million live broadcasts made in the first quarter, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.

Video links and better broadband needed, NPC deputy says

One reason behind the focus on short message or live feeds using video platforms for e-trade is mainly because large numbers of rural workers are illiterate or semi-literate, so video offers a better solution for them in terms of communication.

Ms Liang Qianjuan, who is an NPC deputy in charge of poverty alleviation in Gansu Province and an expert on the growing sector of rural e-commerce, said: “If you want to do something practical for farmers, we need live broadcasts! (to allow video interaction between buyers and sellers)”. 

In 2019, her firm Longnan E-commerce enjoyed online and offline sales amounting to 4.323 billion yuan, with cross-border e-commerce sales of 190 million yuan. She said that e-commerce poverty alleviation contributed 840 yuan of per capita income to the poor, and was helping to drive the development of local industries.

Liang said development is still relatively low in the sector and internet platforms and better broadband was needed, as well as training for using e-commerce platforms, plus skills training for new formats such as live e-commerce. There was also a need for better supervision and support for video platforms such as Kuaishou.

Rural e-commerce is expected to see continued growth thanks to government support, analysts said.

China will support the rollout of e-commerce and courier services in the countryside to expand rural consumption, according to this year's government work report.

Total online sales of farm produce in the three-month period reached 93.7 billion yuan ($13.14 billion), a rise of 31% year-on-year, according to the ministry.

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