China’s 823 poor counties achieve total online retail sales of over 300 billion yuan

First secretary of Shangli village, Dalang Township, Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, advertise for local chickens on a livestream show, May 20, 2020. (Photo by Long Linzhi/People's Daily Online)

The total online retail sales of 832 poor counties in China amounted to 301.45 billion yuan ($46.57 billion) last year, up by 26.0 percent year-on-year. In breakdown, retail sales in the fourth quarter reached 94.57 billion yuan, up by 30.4% year-on-year.

In terms of categories, retail sales of physical goods stood at 176.97 billion yuan, up by 48.0 percent year-on-year, which was 16.6 percentage points higher than that of 2019; retail sales of services totaled 124.48 billion yuan, up by 4.1% year-on-year.

In 2020, online retail sales of agricultural products in these impoverished counties amounted to 40.66 billion yuan, up by 43.5% year-on-year, which was 14.6 percentage points higher than in 2019, showing that more farmers sold their products online. E-commerce is creating more possibilities for rural development.

The thriving e-commerce sector of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, once an impoverished county at national level, is a perfect example of China’s remarkable achievements in e-commerce poverty alleviation.

The county enjoys sound ecological environment and rich resources, but its products were never saleable due to the poor transport there.

To bring a change, local authorities enhanced infrastructure construction and resorted to e-commerce to help impoverished households locate better sales channels. In recent years, the county government has financed and invested nearly 1 billion yuan in infrastructure. Now every village there is connected to asphalt roads, which both facilitates the villagers and ensures smooth logistics. Besides, over 100 administrative villages of the county are covered by broadband services, and more than 20 express delivery companies have been established.

In November 2019, an e-commerce public service center started operation in Rongshui. It has 120 service stations at township and village levels, extending its services to over 60 percent of impoverished villages in the county.

The public service center not only puts local specialties, such as mushrooms, black tea, beef and black sticky rice on shelves, but also sell them on e-commerce platforms.

“E-commerce has widened our sales channels and boosted sales volume, and our local specialties are also sold to more destinations thanks to it. It benefits many poor families,” said Meng Kechang, director of the center.

As of June 2020, the county had helped over 8,100 impoverished residents through developing e-commerce, and each poor households saw its annual income increase by over 1,000 yuan. At the end of last year, Rongshui Miao Autonomous County was officially removed from the poverty list.

Rural e-commerce has now become a “handy tool” for farmers to sell agricultural products and buy daily necessities. The internet cables linking urban and rural areas are bringing more and more farm produce out of the mountains, and taking in high-quality products from the cities.

Rural e-commerce is also joined by more and more young people. Yang Tiancai, 26, from Pujiang County, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, made annual revenue of over 100 million by selling local apples and kiwifruits, improving income for batches of local impoverished households. The couple Wu Shuai and Cao Fang from Suixian County, central China’s Hubei Province also sold tens of millions yuan of local mushrooms. Besides, a guy named Tan Yuxiang from Xiangtan in central China’s Hunan Province sold 900,000 orders of lotus seeds in half a year, and the man’s annual target this year is to achieve a revenue of 100 million yuan.

Many migrant workers and college students are now planning to spend their Chinese New Year holiday where they work and study to reduce passenger flow as a way to control the COVID-19 pandemic. E-commerce emerges as a great way for them to make extra money. As of the end of the last year, the total number of online businesses in the poverty-stricken counties designated by the central government amounted to 3.065 million, up by 366,000 or 13.7 percent from 2019.

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