China's record online shopping bonanza speaks of 'dual circulation' potential

China's Singles' Day shopping festival yet again shattered a string of records from total sales volume to orders placed per second at the peak to participating brands.

Entering its 12th year, China's Singles' Day shopping festival yet again shattered a string of records from total sales volume to orders placed per second at the peak to participating brands, offering a glimpse of the domestic demand potential of the world's second-largest economy.

Having grown into the world's biggest shopping event, this year's e-commerce extravaganza was particularly observed by China watchers as the country's consumption recovery has generally lagged behind industrial sectors.

Meanwhile, China's leadership has also been looking to establish a new development pattern of "dual circulation," in which domestic and overseas markets reinforce each other, with the domestic market as the mainstay.

The final sales figures revealed early Thursday showed that China's potential in domestic demand remained promising, which was stressed as a strategic underpinning to establish the new paradigm.

At the shopping peak, 583,000 orders were placed in a single second on Alibaba's business-to-customer platform Tmall, setting a new shopping record, while total sales on the platform surged to 498.2 billion yuan (US$74.1 billion) from November 1 to November 11.

More than 800 million shoppers, 250,000 brands and 5 million merchants participated in this year's shopping spree, according to Tmall.

Another e-commerce giant, which started promotions from November 1, said it generated more than 271.5 billion yuan during the period.

"The Singles' Day shopping festival is not simply an online shopping event but an important part of the internal circulation of the Chinese economy," said Zhong Hongjun, an economist with Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Behind each online order is the offline participation of multiple parties, including factories, merchants and couriers, he said.

On November 11 alone, China's express delivery firms handled 675 million parcels nationwide, up 26.16 percent year on year, while the total number of parcels handled from November 1 to 11 reached 3.965 billion, the State Post Bureau said.

While domestic retailers were doubling down on the shopping carnival, international players were also rushing in. For many overseas sellers, both internal and external circulations under China's new development pattern translate into greater demand and more opportunities.

Taking the domestic circulation as the mainstay is by no means seeking development behind closed doors. Instead, it aims to forge stronger connectivity between internal and external markets and better capitalize on the resources of the two markets, the country's leadership stressed.

With overseas purchases hampered by the pandemic, the online shopping carnival has offered an optimal opportunity for Chinese consumers to buy overseas products, and may significantly boost sales for global brands and merchants, said Weng Yi, a researcher with Chinese think tank Cathay Institute for Public Affairs.

To cater to the growing demand of Chinese consumers, Tmall Global, Alibaba's cross-border e-commerce arm, has imported a huge variety of products from over 100 overseas farms, ranches, and wineries, including 1,000 tons of milk from Uruguay, 2.6 million bottles of French wine, and 2 tons of cubilose from Malaysia.

About 25,000 overseas businesses from more than 220 countries and regions participated in this year's shopping spree on Tmall. Many of them seek to revive their sagging businesses amid the pandemic by tapping into the huge Chinese market.

While domestic buyers were snapping up overseas goods via cross-border e-commerce channels, Chinese products were also gaining popularity abroad. More than 4 million parcels are expected to be delivered to Europe via the China-Europe freight trains during the shopping spree.

Echoing Weng's views, Zhang Monan, a research fellow of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said cross-border e-commerce has become an important channel for boosting the dual circulation of domestic and international markets.

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