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Rural areas thriving with help from e-commerce

E-commerce is playing an important role in China helping revitalize some of the country’s most rural areas.

As incomes increase, growth in online retail purchases by rural shoppers is starting to outpace their urban counterparts.

Official data show that China’s rural residents spent 894.5 billion yuan ($131.4 billion) online in 2016 – 17.4 percent of the nation’s total.

And these numbers continue to climb with rural residents contributing a total of almost 540 billion yuan ($81.4 billion) to the e-commerce sector in the first half of this year, up 38 percent over the same period in 2016.

The sheer number of rural web users is behind this explosive expansion of the online retail business. Currently, there are over 200 million rural residents online in China and that number is expected to reach 240 million by 2018.

E-commerce is also opening the doors to this huge market for companies and farmers, creating millions of jobs in nonurban regions.

As more and more people embrace e-retail, the number of online shops based in rural regions jumped to over 8.3 million by the end of 2016, making up 26 percent of country’s total, according to government statistics.

Favorable policies to promote rural e-commerce have made an impact in 750 counties and villages in 28 provinces. While impoverished counties have benefited from 17 major e-commerce platforms such as China Post, JD.com, Suning and SFbest participating in these programs.

E-commerce has changed people’s lives and their way of thinking and selling goods in rural China.

Inspired by new business models, it is encouraging to see talented people returning to their rural hometowns to start new businesses, said Li Yongjian with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.