China’s cross-border e-commerce registers growth despite pandemic

At a cross-border e-commerce industrial park in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, workers from Shangyan Trading Company are busy loading clothes into trucks after quality inspection.

The goods will be transported thousands of miles away to overseas warehouses and will be shipped to North America for sale.

“Despite the pandemic headwinds, our cross-border e-commerce sales have continued to grow in recent years,” said Jiang Yebing, general manager of Shangyan, adding that the company’s sales volume rose by 60 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2022 and goods were delivered each day.

Driven by factors including smoother logistics channels and more convenient customs clearance policies, cross-border e-commerce in landlocked Anhui has gained momentum. This impetus offers a glimpse into China’s rapid growth in this field against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Cross-border e-commerce, featuring online marketing, online transactions and contactless payment, has boomed in China over the past few years, particularly during the last two years when the pandemic impeded business travel and face-to-face contact.

Data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed that China’s cross-border e-commerce imports and exports grew by 0.5 percent year on year to 434.5 billion yuan (about 66.57 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of this year, with exports increasing by 2.6 percent to 310.4 billion yuan.

“In recent years, as a new form of foreign trade, cross-border e-commerce has shown strong development vitality,” GAC spokesperson Li Kuiwen told a press conference recently.

Earlier this year, China’s State Council issued a statement, approving the establishment of additional cross-border e-commerce pilot zones in 27 cities and regions.

This brings the overall tally of pilot zones to 132, covering almost all provincial-level regions in China from coastal industrial powerhouses such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong to inland areas.

In these pilot zones, local governments provide a variety of trade services ranging from logistics, payment, law, taxation and customs clearance to facilitate enterprises’ cross-border e-commerce businesses.

“In January, the export orders of our park exceeded 480,000, up more than 40 times from the same period in the previous year, marking a brilliant start,” said Wang Weidong, director of Anhui (Shushan) Cross-border E-commerce Industrial Park in Hefei, one of the pilot zones.

With the pandemic inducing new challenges such as rising raw material costs and disruptions in international logistics, local governments in China are actively rolling out measures to cope with difficulties facing cross-border e-commerce.

The measures include subsidies for transportation, streamlining of export clearance procedures and a division mechanism to fully utilize logistics capacity, among others.

The favorable policy environment for cross-border e-commerce has led to a continuous increase in the number of cross-border e-commerce companies. So far, China has seen the establishment of more than 30,000 enterprises related to cross-border e-commerce, with the volume soaring every year.

The massive market entities of cross-border e-commerce also provide opportunities for industry innovation, with new marketing tools such as the advent of cross-border e-commerce livestream sales.

Chinese consulting firm iiMedia Research has predicted that the market scale of China’s cross-border e-commerce livestream sales will exceed 100 billion yuan in 2022.

“China has actively developed cross-border e-commerce and other new forms of foreign trade to promote sustained growth of foreign trade,” said Fu Linghui, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics.

Despite the complex and uncertain international environment, China’s strong resilience and great potential in foreign trade will remain unaffected and the country’s foreign trade is expected to maintain stable development, Fu noted.