Trade between China and Russia expands in digital age

(Xinhua)
Updated: 2015-11-09 08:49:55

A farmer picks grapes at a fruit and vegetable farm in Raohe county, Heilongjiang province. Most of the farm's produce is sold to Russian consumers. [Photo provided to China Daily]

E-commerce has boosted cross-border trade between China and Russia.

The digital era has helped bring cheaper Russian goods, especially food, to Chinese doorsteps, quicker than ever before.

During last month's China-Russia expo in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, organic Russian food such as flour, honey, beer, vegetable oil and fruit juice featured prominently.

Heilongjiang, which shares a 3,000-kilometer border with Russia, is an important gateway to the country.

Goods from there enjoy a "one-stop customs clearance" service in Suifenhe, and can be in China within two hours, according to Wang Jianpeng, general manager of Eshanghui, a Russian food e-commerce firm.

Wang was attending the expo, which attracted nearly 10,000 businesspeople from 103 countries and regions this year, promoting his WeChat account. "Organic Russian food is very popular in China," he said.

"Our WeChat platform was launched in mid-September, and we now boast more than 800 traders distributing Russian goods. Our daily sales volume hit more than 100,000 yuan ($15,873) within 10 days."

In 2014, China remained Russia's largest trade partner for the fifth year. Russia is China's ninth-largest trade partner. Bilateral trade jumped 6.8 percent from the previous year to a record high of $95.28 billion in 2014. Twenty years ago, it was less than $7 billion.

"Russia has become one of the most attractive markets for China's e-commerce companies," said Jiang Zhenjun, a Russian studies expert at Heilongjiang University.

On Singles' Day, the global shopping festival launched by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd on Nov 11 last year, Russian customers purchased the largest amount of goods among overseas buyers, according to Jiang.

In 2013, around 300 million packages containing items bought on the Internet were transported from China to Russia.

That increased to more than 700 million in 2014, and is expected to hit more than 1 billion by the end of this year.

China's cross-border e-commerce trade has been developing rapidly, which will help create jobs and inject new energy into the economy, the government's website reported in March.

Online shopping revenue amounted to 9.8 trillion yuan from January to August this year, growing 24.7 percent annually, according to Zeng Chen, an e-commerce expert at the Ministry of Commerce.

More than 80 percent of Chinese foreign trade firms have an online-business arm.

According to China Internet Network Information Center, the country had 649 million Internet users by the end of 2014, and some 557 million used mobile phones to get online.

Last month, the government unveiled plans to upgrade Internet infrastructure and the logistics industry in rural areas, to encourage online spending.

"E-commerce is significant in integrating traditional and emerging industries, reducing logistics costs, encouraging entrepreneurship, creating jobs and boosting consumption," a government statement said.

Developing the sector is an important part of China's "Internet Plus" action plan, put forward by Premier Li Keqiang when he delivered the Government Work Report in early March.

The program covers the integration of mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things with modern manufacturing.

It also encourages development of industrial networks and Internet banking, and helping online companies increase their international presence.

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