A Look at the Past 20 Years of China’s E-Commerce Industry

A Look at the Past 20 Years of China’s E-Commerce Industry

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The leaps and bounds of China’s e-commerce industry since the beginning of the 21st century introduced a new shopping experience to Chinese consumers while fundamentally changing the country’s entire business environment. Caijing magazine reporters He Xiaoqing and Ye Nan trace the overall development of the Chinese e-commerce industry but also dig deeper – for example, by analyzing innovative business models.


China’s e-commerce industry took off after that of the United States, but it has caught up – now boasting the highest ratio of online sales to total retail sales in the world. China’s online market has created an enormous business ecosystem, which has driven the development of many industries, including mobile payments, express delivery and logistics, and digital business services. E-commerce has also provided fertile soil for original Chinese brands to grow.

In contrast with the North American and European online markets, just a few platforms – that is, online market places where stores can set up shop – dominate China’s e-commerce while self-operated online stores by brands and traditional offline retailers never really took off. Brands generally must open online flagship stores on platforms like Alibaba’s Tmall...

About the Authors

Reporters He Xiaoqing and Ye Nan co-authored this article for Caijing, a leading business and economics magazine in China.