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China Center Quick Note: China's online retail situation – through the lens of express parcel business
  • Authors:

    Siqi Zhou

  • Publication Date:
    February 2016

The rapid development and huge potential of China’s e-commerce industry are much discussed. But is e-commerce truly enabling and driving widespread consumption and economic activity across the far reaches of China?

Express parcel delivery volumes provide a good proxy for e-commerce activity in different regions. The data suggest the answer to the above question is no. 

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that e-commerce significantly drives consumption in smaller and less-developed cities, express delivery data suggests that online retail sales are still highly concentrated in China’s more advanced cities. Moreover, this concentrated situation does not appear to be changing much, even as e-commerce presumably matures and gains in awareness. 

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