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Cross-border e-commerce heats up amid booming China-ASEAN trade


Updated: 2021-09-08

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The past summer vacation has been especially busy for Jariya Unthong, a Thai-language teacher based in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who has been routinely invited by a local company to livestream and peddle products to Thai consumers via e-commerce platform Lazada.

Unthong is a teacher from Guangxi University in the regional capital Nanning and has lived in the city for more than a decade. Since last year, she has been livestreaming products and training new livestreamers for Nanning-headquartered cross-border e-commerce company Tus-Innovation.

She said that, judging from her own experiences, online shopping, especially purchasing China-made products from online platforms, has been catching on with consumers in Thailand.

"Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Thai consumers have taken a liking to online shopping," she said. "Our livestreaming sessions offer them quality products with a simple click on their phones and also help with epidemic prevention and control."

Zhao Hui, director of Tus-Innovation's overseas project, said the company's cross-border e-commerce business has been expanding rapidly in Southeast Asia, as shown by the surging traffic of its livestreaming sessions.

"When we launched livestreaming in 2019, some of our sessions only had dozens of viewers from Southeast Asia. Now thousands of people tune in to our livestreaming sessions," Zhao said.

Tus-Innovation is one of a large number of companies that have jumped on the bandwagon of cross-border e-commerce to tap into the opportunities brought by the thriving trade between China and ASEAN.

Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN, its largest trading partner, reached 2.66 trillion yuan (about 412 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of 2021, up 27.8 percent year on year, according to Chinese customs data.

Guangxi is at the forefront of China's opening-up to ASEAN thanks to its geographical proximity, and the region has seen its cross-border e-commerce sector boom in recent years on the back of strong trade with ASEAN.

The free-trade zone in Guangxi reported a transaction volume of over 3.4 billion yuan in cross-border e-commerce in the first half of this year, according to official statistics.

Nanning and the border city of Chongzuo in Guangxi have also been approved as state-level cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot zones to further boost the sector's development in the region.

Guangxi's thriving cross-border e-commerce sector is also attracting more talent from ASEAN countries. The Lazada Cross-Border Eco-Innovation Service Center (Nanning), established by Tus-Innovation in 2019, now employs over 200 livestreamers from Southeast Asia and has been providing training and holding contests for the livestreamers.

Government officials and entrepreneurs from Guangxi are expecting the upcoming 18th China-ASEAN Expo, scheduled in Nanning from Sept. 10 to 13, to inject further impetus into its cross-border e-commerce sector.

Wang Lei, secretary-general of the expo secretariat, said that this year's expo has invited famous influencers to livestream the event and introduce products made in Southeast Asian countries, helping those products enter the Chinese market.

The 2021 China-ASEAN Silk Road Cross-border E-commerce Forum will be convened on the sidelines of the expo and will bring together experts and entrepreneurs to discuss how to further develop the sector and tackle challenges during the pandemic.

Su Jian, deputy director of the Guangxi regional commerce department, said he hoped the forum would help boost the development of cross-border e-commerce in China and ASEAN countries, and deepen China-ASEAN e-commerce cooperation in fields including technology, resources, talent and information.