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Cross-border e-commerce in China - statistics & facts

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cross-border trade in China remained strong. In 2021, with imports and exports surging to new heights, over a third of China's GDP came from merchandise trade. That year, China was the largest exporting country and the second-largest importing country in the world. Driven by the recent global pandemic and digitalization trends, cross-border e-commerce expanded its presence in China's foreign trade landscape.

Cross-border exports

As of 2021, China had around 4,700 cross-border e-commerce companies, most of which were small and medium-sized enterprises. In that year, the gross merchandise value generated by international online trade accounted for around 36 percent of the total import-export value in China. Driven by the development of logistics and digital payments, many Chinese e-commerce companies set up strategies to acquire more overseas markets. Aliexpress, the subsidiary of China's online retailing giant Alibaba, defeated eBay to become the second favorite website among cross-border online shoppers. Besides, half of the ten most downloaded shopping apps in Google Play Stores were operated by Chinese exporters.

After the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, selling on online cross-border marketplaces like Aliexpress and wish.com became a way for many Chinese manufacturers to tackle their economic predicament. To stimulate the growth of cross-border e-commerce, China opened 27 new pilot zones in 2022, making the total number of cross-border e-commerce pilot zones 132. Enterprises located in these pilot zones were supported through tax deductions on exporting.

Cross-border imports

The rising middle-class in China demand high-quality products, yet do not want to risk buying counterfeits. Therefore, cross-border e-commerce platforms became an ideal option for purchasing foreign goods. The number of cross-border import e-commerce users in China soared to 155 million in 2021, with the majority between the ages of 26 and 40. As of the first quarter of 2022, Tmall Global, Kaola, and JD Worldwide were the three most prominent cross-border online shopping websites for Chinese consumers, making up a combined 80 percent of the market. Since 2012, cross-border e-commerce imports in China have soared more than tenfold. In a 2021 survey, Chinese shoppers preferred to buy clothing, cosmetics and, food products from cross-border import e-commerce platforms.

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