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Alibaba Expands E-Commerce in Rural China

Alibaba, China's biggest online trader, reached an agreement on February 17 with the top economic planner to expand e-commerce in rural areas.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will work with Alibaba in more than 300 rural areas to develop e-commerce, which is expected to optimize the agricultural industrial chain and encourage rural people to start their own businesses.

E-commerce is developing quickly in rural China as farmers begin selling produce online. E-commerce giants such as Alibaba and have set up service stations in villages to help those who lack the necessary skills to shop online. Villagers can order goods at the stations and return a few days later to collect their packages.

The number of Alibaba village service stations has risen from three in 2009 to 780, with plans to build a total of 100,000 such stations and 1,000 county-level stations by 2019. Total investment is projected to be 10 billion yuan ($1.53 billion).

China's online sales remained strong in 2015, jumping 33.3 percent year on year to 3.88 trillion yuan ($593.64 billion).

Online sales in rural areas grew more rapidly, doubling the pace of growth in urban areas. Rural netizens, who account for nearly one-third of the total, spent 195 million yuan ($30.03 million) online last year.

Online retailers made great efforts to tap the potential of the rural market. Last year, 22.4 percent of online shoppers came from rural areas.

"Developing e-commerce in rural areas is not only beneficial to entrepreneurship and employment, but also helpful to upgrading the economic growth mode at the county level and relieving poverty," said Wang Xiaotao, deputy head of the NDRC.

(Xinhua News Agency February 17, 2016)

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