Xinhua Insight: "Taobao Villages" spark China's rural economy
JINAN, Aug 20, 2013 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --
by Xinhua writers Hu Tao, Liu Baosen and Xi Min
In a year when college graduates are
struggling to find jobs, a growing number of Chinese farmers are
getting rich at the click of a mouse.
An Baokang has become a millionaire by selling crafts online from
his hometown of Wantou Village in east China's Shandong Province,
with sales exceeding two million yuan (about 326,800 U.S. dollars)
"Urban people revere a natural way of living, and I offer it to
them with pure, natural crafts," said An, who runs an online store
selling handwoven household supplies, such as tatami and tea tables
made from straw.
Wantou, a village 350 km from Beijing, has become known as one of
China's "Taobao Villages," home to over 500 online stores on Taobao,
China's largest online shopping site under the e-commerce giant
EMPL0YED AT HOME
With a stable but "boring" job in a nearby town, An in 2009
pioneered online sales of handwoven crafts in Wantou, where a
tradition of wicker handicrafts has been handed down for at least 600
An has since opened a physical store and a small factory with the
cooperation of six neighboring family workshops in order to fill the
orders flooding in from customers across the country.
"The online store has gained popularity and trust among netizens,
who also bring business to my physical store," said An, adding that
he has plans to expand the 150-square-meter physical store to about
1,000 square meters.
"Customers keep pouring in and I should seize the opportunity to
expand production," he said.
At first, most of An's fellow villagers, who seldom set foot in
large cities, didn't believe virtual shops could bring in customers,
so they didn't follow suit, said An.
Now, nearly all households in Wantou have linked their family
workshops to online stores. Their products are sold to customers as
far away as northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, about
2,000 km from Wantou.
In this small village, the success of online sales is also driving
other business. To date, there are over 20 express delivery companies
in the village serving more than 500 family workshops and online
GRASSROOTS IN E-BUSINESS
Wantou Village is just one of 14 "Taobao Villages" in China,
according to Alibaba, a leading business-to-business website under
the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group.
Alibaba defines a "Taobao Village" as a village in which over 10
percent of households run online stores and village e-commerce
revenues exceed 10 million yuan per year.
By the end of 2012, more than 1.63 million Taobao stores were
registered in rural areas. Total transactions from the 14 "Taobao
villages" hit 5 billion yuan last year, according to a report
released by Alireserach.
The growth of "Taobao Villages" has brought vitality to
traditional agricultural areas of China, said Chen Liang, senior
expert with Aliresearch.
Chen said that the villages are exploring a new path for China,
with potential to realize sustainable economic growth and narrow the
urban-rural income gap, much like the miracle created in Xiaogang
Village over 30 years ago.
Located in eastern Anhui Province, Xiaogang Village is known for
its1978 reforms in which rural collectives distributed land-use
rights to households through 30-year contracts. The move boosted
grain supply significantly.
"A 'Taobao Village' is similar to Xiaogang Village in the
information age," Chen says, adding that online business will
revitalize the small-scale peasant economy and increase domestic
consumption in rural areas.
Earlier this month, the government of Shandong Province, a region
known as China's farm produce powerhouse, put forward preferential
policies for developing e-commerce, including helping graduates and
migrant workers start online farm produce trade in remote areas.
China's Internet users reached 591 million in the first half of
2013, and e-commerce revenues hit 4.98 trillion yuan in the same
"We should pay closer attention to 'Taobao villages' in the long
term. They are a transitional stage in agricultural and rural
modernization," said Qiu Zeqi, director of the Center for
Sociological Research and Development Studies of Peking University.
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