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China wants global ecommerce crown

Gov to 'guide' industry to £1.4tr in sales by 2015

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China has revealed ambitious growth plans to lead the word in e-commerce, quadrupling web sales to reach 18 trillion (£1.4tr) by 2015, but laid out a strict new set of policy measures to get there.

A lengthy missive sent from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) outlines the country’s 12th ‘five year plan’ for e-commerce which, bizarrely, began last year and runs to 2015.

It claims that quadrupling e-commerce sales in the period from a total of 4.5tr yuan at the end of 2010, is eminently do-able given the rapidly developing mobile internet, cross-border trade, the SME sector and the online payments industry which raked in 1.01tr yuan in 2010.

However, it warned that certain areas would need tightening up in order to drive growth in the industry, in particular payment systems and online security, including a clamp down on the sale of "counterfeit and shoddy goods".

To that end, the ministry released a ten point plan outlining where it aims to take action.

These include a crack-down on illegal ecommerce; improving consumer rights; enhancing e-commerce laws; regulations and standards; developing improved statistical monitoring of the market; accelerating staff training and improving international co-operation.

These might sound like fairly common sense measures given the relative immaturity of the market in China, but as TechInAsia explains, the shadow of government interference looms large, with the Chinese word for “oversight/monitoring” appearing at least 17 times in the report.

Hitherto, the Chinese government has taken a much more hands-off approach to e-commerce than in other aspects of the web such as social media, where the potential for political and social disruption is more pronounced and strict vetting of content is applied.

A Boston Consulting Group report last week described “unfettered growth” in the region and predicted China’s CAGR for 2010-2016 in terms of its “internet GDP” would be fifth globally at 17.4 per cent, with the UK out in front.

However, China doesn’t like to be that far behind at anything.

With question marks over online payment security and stability and the reliability of delivery systems still causing problems for customers and hampering growth in the sector, the authorities have obviously felt the need to step in.

Domestic success stories such as Taobao and Dandang will be braced for what comes next. ®

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