Shanghai unveils plans for 'Silk Road E-commerce' pilot zone

Huang Yixuan
Shanghai plans to establish a "Silk Road E-commerce" cooperation pilot zone that will include a digital technology application center and an international board for data trading.
Huang Yixuan

Shanghai is taking the lead in setting up a "Silk Road E-commerce" cooperation pilot zone, including a digital technology application center and an international board for data trading.

The city has released a plan to establish the "Silk Road E-commerce" Cooperation Pilot Zone, a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing trade connectivity, facilitating cross-border e-commerce and promoting digital trade. Shanghai Deputy Secretary General Zhang Xiong introduced the comprehensive goals of the zone during a press conference on Tuesday.

The overall goals outlined in the plan involve: creating a set of demonstrative and leading institutional open achievements, gathering a group of internationally competitive e-commerce entities, establishing a set of regionally distinctive carriers, and building a set of public service platforms promoting common development among "Silk Road E-commerce" partner countries – all to be realized by 2025.

The establishment of the pilot zone, as a crucial move in building an open economy, will significantly support Shanghai in deepening international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and facilitating the high-quality development of the BRI, according to Zhang.

Among its highlights, the plan proposes the establishment of a data trading registration service system and an international board for data trading. It suggests participation in international standard cooperation for data circulation and the initiation of a "Silk Road E-commerce" International Think Tank Alliance.

It also emphasizes the creation of a "Silk Road E-commerce" Digital Technology Application Center, advancing technologies such as cloud computing, blockchain, big data, the Internet of Things, and digital twinning.

Specifically, the plan outlines three key areas of focus involving 19 tasks:

Expanding openness in the e-commerce sector

On expanding opening-up in e-commerce, tasks include enhancing international data services, implementing high-standard trade facilitation measures, promoting the international application of electronic documentation standards, exploring cross-border interoperability of digital identity and electronic authentication.

It also pledges to expand imports for cross-border e-commerce, stimulate innovative developments in cross-border e-commerce exports, and advocate cross-border yuan settlement in the "Silk Road E-commerce" scheme.

Among notable measures is the plan to establish a data transaction registration service system and an international board for data transactions, and engage in collaboration on international standards for data circulation.

Also mentioned is promoting international cooperation of the "single window" platform for international trade, supporting more measures on trade facilitation.

Create a pilot environment for innovation

To make it more of a pioneering area, the plan also sets tasks including: to develop central functional zones in customs special supervision areas in the Shanghai pilot free trade zone and Lingang special area; to establish a global distribution center for cross-border e-commerce; to foster the growth of "Silk Road E-commerce" enterprises; and to improve infrastructure and create an international talent hub.

Highlights include promoting bonded exhibition in customs special supervision areas, constructing a global distribution center with diverse customs functions, and encouraging the development of independent platforms for cross-border e-commerce.

The city will also strengthen infrastructure for warehousing, logistics, and payment, and enhance the settlement system for cross-border e-commerce.

Promote international and regional cooperation

On promoting multilateral cooperation, the city pledges to encourage communication with think tanks, promote the application of digital technologies, support communication and cooperation of partner countries, and establish an international services system for Silk Road e-commerce.

Key proposals involve initiating the "Silk Road E-commerce" International Think Tank Alliance, exploring the application of digital technologies, and creating a collaborative platform for cross-border e-commerce services. Additionally, the plan emphasizes the importance of enhancing the overall service system through pilot initiatives like the establishment of cross-border e-commerce service platforms and overseas investment service platforms.

City's advantages

In the context of Shanghai being a pivotal economic center, the creation of the pilot zone aligns with the city's advantages, including a strategic hub for shipping, an established e-commerce ecosystem, and a significant market, Zhang pointed out.

The city has already made strides with five national-level e-commerce demonstration bases and 16 municipal-level cross-border e-commerce demonstration zones, fostering a robust ecosystem. In logistics, it has gathered top global and local enterprises, forming an international logistics service system, while achieving substantial growth in international express services.

Shanghai is also at the forefront in cross-border payment and settlement, with seven third-party payment institutions holding licenses.

As a core city in the Yangtze River Delta region, Shanghai's import and export volume of port cargo trade added up to 10.4 trillion yuan (US$1.43 trillion) in 2022, maintaining its position as the world's leading city. It strategically leverages its geographical advantage and is poised to create a central functional zone and a radiating leading zone, unlocking the potential of connecting the domestic market with the international market under the BRI.

Zhou Lan, deputy director of the Shanghai Commission of Commerce, shared statistics emphasizing the city's key role in e-commerce. As one of the first cities designated as a national e-commerce demonstration city and a pilot city for cross-border e-commerce, Shanghai recorded an e-commerce transaction volume of 3.33 trillion yuan in 2022, ranking among the top cities nationwide.

The city also hosts nine e-commerce platforms with transactions reaching hundreds of billions of yuan and 17 platforms with transactions of hundreds of billions of yuan. Cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached 184.1 billion yuan, showing a growth of 38.6 percent year on year.

The establishment of the pilot zone will create more opportunities for collaboration, fostering an open, fair, and just trade environment, Zhou said.

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