Beijing wants more outfits like Temu teeming around the world

Calls for massive cross-border e-commerce expansion at home and abroad

China's Ministry of Commerce has issued a policy calling for massive expansion of the nation's cross-border e-commerce industry.

The policy document, published on Tuesday, labels cross-border e-commerce as an important contributor to the development of China's economy and therefore worthy of support to ensure its expansion.

Beijing wants its local governments to co-operate with e-commerce platforms and develop zones dedicated to helping such businesses to develop and thrive.

Financial institutions have been encouraged to provide financial support for Chinese e-commerce operations, and to ensure they provide efficient and low-cost foreign currency settlement services.

Helping e-commerce operators to establish offshore warehouses and attend offshore trade shows is also part of Beijing's plan.

The Ministry wants China's e-commerce players to use tech as they expand, and has thus called for the use of clouds, AI, big data, and analytics tools to inform their expansion. Cross-border data flows also rate a mention. China is careful not to let customer data about its citizens leave its shores, so this policy calls for careful observation of relevant laws.

Active participation with global economic blocs and institutions is also on the agenda. The Universal Postal Union gets a mention too – recognition that it is reviewing the payment arrangements for parcels sent across borders. Past postal rules made it very cheap for exporters from developing countries to ship goods to wealthier jurisdictions, but that's changed in recent years – in part as a response to e-commerce.

It's not hard to see why China wants to promote its e-commerce sector: it's growing fast, and nourishes local manufacturers and the platforms that peddle their goods.

The prime example of the sector's surge is the rapid rise of online tat bazaars Temu and Shein – in a handful of years they have grown to become significant global players. The two have this year been declared Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) under the European Union's Digital Services Act, meaning they have over 45 million users on the Continent alone.

The pair have thrived largely because their prices undercut domestic rivals, which has led to concerns about whether they compete fairly. Whether or not they are serious about the ethical practices adopted by their suppliers has also concerned regulators outside China.

Beijing's policy also calls for development of more big global brands.

One option not mentioned is promoting development of real-world retail presences for Chinese brands. As it happens, your correspondent recently visited an Alibaba store in a Barcelona mall. It was not a pleasant experience: low-end tat at worryingly low prices, in a store that paid almost no attention to design or merchandising. Maybe fixing that up will be Beijing's next push. ®

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