China aims for $2.8T e-commerce sales by 2015

Goal reachable due to fast e-commerce growth and online trading, rapid developments in mobile devices and online payment, but challenges remain, says country's ministry of industry and IT.

China has laid out plans to drive the value of online shopping to 18 trillion yuan (US$2.86 trillion) by 2015, unveiling a set of policy measures to hit that goal.

According to its E-commerce 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) report released Tuesday, the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said this target was possible due to rapidly developing mobile Internet, cross-border trade, growth in the small and midsize business (SMB) sector and online payment industry, which had brought in 1.01 trillion yuan (US$160.1 billion) in 2010.

It also saw high e-commerce sales in 2010 which rang in the tune of 4.5 trillion yuan (US$713.3 billion), with trading volume reaching 513.1 billion yuan (US$81.3 billion) which accounted for 3.3 percent of China's overall retail sales. As of November 2011, there were 505 million Internet users in the country, exceeding the entire population of countries such as the United States, according to a China Internet Network Information Center report in January.

The ministry's report noted that the number of Chinese users with 3G-enabled mobile devices hit 47 million in end-2010, adding that many Web sites also developed Internet applications for use in online shopping.

It also stated that the value of online trading among Chinese businesses was expected to make up over 50 percent of all such purchases in China. In addition, SMBs brought in 13.1 billion yuan (US$2.08 billion) in online sales revenue last year and many small companies also established online stores for group-buying services to enable customers to obtain goods at a discount. There were over 4,000 group-buying Web sites in China in December last year, up from 2,630 in January 2011.

According to the ministry, the development of new technologies will provide better technical conditions for e-commerce innovation and development. These include broadband, next-generation national information infrastructure, cloud computing and networking, intelligent search and social networking applications.

"E-commerce has become an important tool to enhance global economic competitiveness. [As such], China urgently needs to accelerate the development of e-commerce," it said.

Its views echo a November 2011 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report which found that China was likely to be the world's most valuable e-commerce economy over the next four years, due to strong consumer demand and Internet access outpacing physical retail outlets.

10-point plan to address remaining challenges
However, the Chinese ministry's report maintained that some challenges remained in the country's e-commerce development. For one, the role of e-commerce to promote innovation and development of China's traditional mode of production and operation, has yet to reach its potential in terms of contribution to the local economy. The e-commerce market also remains immature and there is still a need to enhance and expand service capabilities and levels, the Chinese government said.

E-commerce development in the country also needs better laws and regulations to prevent occurances of illegal activities such as online infringement of intellectual property, selling of counterfeit goods and online fraud.

The ministry released a 10-point plan outlining where it aims to take action, including cracking down on illegal e-commerce, improving consumer rights, enhancing e-commerce laws, regulations and standards, as well as developing improved statistical monitoring of the market.

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