Cross-border e-commerce has surged with the recent exponential technological advances. China, with its comprehensive domestic e-commerce infrastructure as well as its emerging middle class, has become the world’s largest economy for e-commerce. China’s e-commerce strategy is not confined domestically. Rather, it has been part of China’s grand strategy the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or more precisely a virtue version of BRI – the Digital Silk Road Initiative. In 2018, China’s cross-border e-commerce (including imports and exports) reached 1.35 trillion (with 50% annual increase). Imports in 2018 amounted to 78.6 billion (with 40% annual increase).
This work-in-progress paper explores the China-led agenda on the global governance of e-commerce. Although China was a co-sponsor to the WTO e-commerce negotiations, China also tabled a communication to reform the WTO system in April 2019, clarifying its own position on e-commerce independently. In addition, China also promotes its e-commerce agenda at other fora. China led the G20 Declaration on e-commerce and proposed the eWTP, an electronic world trade platform, to connect the SMEs around the world. China also incorporated its e-commerce agenda at the regional level by incorporating e-commerce into its FTAs/RTAs, signing independent bilateral MOUs on e-commerce, as well as facilitating the internationalisation of the Chinese Yuan.
Taking into account the developments mentioned above, one can observe that a corporate-led initiative by Alibaba is progressing in parallel with the state-led agenda. The synergy of the two agendas will shed light on the role of China in global governance.
Dr Wenting Cheng is a visitor at RegNet. She obtained her PhD from ANU in 2018. Before coming to ANU, she worked as a research fellow at the Development and Research Center of State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO). Dr Cheng has published in leading IP journals including IIC and European Intellectual Property Review. She specialises in intellectual property law and her recent research focuses on China in global governance and the regulation of technology.