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    Jun 06, 2016

    E-commerce villages uplift rural China


    SEVEN years since a rural strip in south-eastern China became the country's first "Taobao village", more than 700 have appeared across the land, all with an annual trading volume in e-commerce surpassing 10 million yuan (S$2 million), local and foreign media reported.

    Yet, the real explosion in the number of Taobao villages is just about to happen, according to Sun Lijun, vice-president of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, who is in charge of Rural Taobao.

    Taobao is the biggest Chinese website for online shopping.

    At a Chinese e-commerce summit held late last month, Mr Sun pointed out that the challenge now is not how to "graft" the Internet on to villages, but to grow the Internet "genes" already planted in them, the People's Posts and Telecommunications News reported.

    To grow more Taobao villages, Alibaba has trained more than 1,500 county magistrates, who are expected to help accelerate the process, Mr Sun revealed.

    He also disclosed that more than 20,000 villages are now partnering Rural Taobao to grow their e-commerce sectors.

    Meanwhile, each involved county has attracted on average 2,500 young people - majority of whom are graduates and eager for a digital career in rural China - to sign on to the partnership, he added.

    Junpu village, in southern China's Chaozhou region, is cited in a report by the Spanish news agency Efe as an example of the proliferating trend.

    Around 350 of Junpu's 500 families - roughly 70 per cent of its 2,800 inhabitants - work in small firms that offer items for sale online, said the report.

    The workers package and distribute the merchandise at a pace that sometimes can be an intense rush, such as on Nov 11 - China's Singles' Day, which has evolved into a day of cheap Internet sales and nationwide frenzied buying.

    There are no window displays in Junpu, as stock, sold wholesale, is stacked in inventories, wrapped in plastic and readied for shipment.

    Many residents of Junpu abandoned pig farming or tea growing to engage in e-commerce, said Efe.

    And many people from other parts of China have come to join them in search of better livelihoods.

    The first Taobao village is Qingyanliu in Zhejiang's Yiwu city, which itself is China's major trade hub.

    The village, whose population has grown eight times from 1,000 people in 2009, now has more than 2,000 Taobao shops, with an annual turnover of over 2 billion yuan.

    Meanwhile, fresh graduate Peng Jun is helping Linxian in northern Shanxi province set up an e-commerce network, reported Guangming Daily.

    Having helped the impoverished county's date farmers sell off their surplus stocks via the Internet, Mr Peng is certain that e-commerce is the way to enrich China's villages - by connecting them to a wider market and by distinguishing their products through effective branding.