China remains world’s largest online retail market for 11th consecutive year amid booming consumption recovery
Published: Jan 19, 2024 02:13 PM
internet companies Photo:VCG


China's online retail sales in 2023 recorded a year-on-year increase of 11 percent to reach 15.42 trillion yuan ($2.17 trillion) - maintaining its position as the world's largest online retail market for 11 consecutive years, as the country's efforts to promote high-quality development of the e-commerce sector showed positive results, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on Friday. 

The steadily progressing digital economy contributed significantly to China's consumption in 2023, which is poised to further spur consumption in the coming year, experts said, highlighting the culture and tourism industry as a major sector sharing the dividends.  

Amid China's rapid development in the digital economy, the e-commerce sector has injected more vitality into retail spending. Online retail sales of physical goods accounted for 27.6 percent of the country's total retail volume, setting a new record, official data showed. 

The MOFCOM statement outlined multiple new consumption trends in the service sector in 2023, including online tourism, entertainment, and catering. The three sectors together contributed 23.5 percent to the growth of the total online retail sales last year while driving up the sector's growth by 2.6 percentage points. 

Specifically, online tourism sales surged by 237.5 percent, boosted by popular destinations such as Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and Southwest China's Guizhou Province. Harbin saw 3.05 million tourist visits during the three-day New Year's Day holidays and generated 5.91 billion yuan in tourism revenue, new records in both cases, according to local officials.

In addition to the direct e-commerce sales that have shored up economic growth, the continued integration of online and offline resources has also helped stimulate consumption, Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday.

Taking the heating tourism sector as an example, Zhang said that consumers are initially drawn to popular destinations through social media and will then book trips via corresponding online platforms, adding that offline consumption is further stimulated once consumers start the trips. 
The MOFCOM statement also highlighted the growing models for integrating digital and real sales and a broader international cooperation as two other major achievements. 

For instance, the number of partner countries for Silk Road e-commerce increased to 30, while the sales of imported goods on major domestic e-commerce platforms reached 290.34 billion yuan in 2023. 

China's consumption in 2023 played a vital role in bolstering economic development.

Final consumption contributed to 82.5 percent of overall GDP growth, while retail sales set a new record of 47.15 trillion yuan, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Wednesday. The strong momentum from record-high sales is expected to last in 2024. 

Meanwhile, China's catering industry generated revenue of 5.29 trillion yuan in 2023, up 20.4 percent year-on-year, hitting a historical high, according to data from the NBS.

In 2024, the consumer market will continue recovering following a rise in market activity from the release of consumers' savings and a further optimized consumption structure led by new products and models, Pan Helin, joint director of the Research Center for Digital Economics and Financial Innovation, affiliated with Zhejiang University's International Business School, told the Global Times on Friday.

Pan expected a better performance for the digital economy and e-commerce sectors in the coming year, especially as targeted stimulus policies boost domestic demand. 

As Chinese New Year approaches, bookings for both domestic and outbound traveling have been booming.

Propelled by the recent enthusiasm for winter tourism, bookings for ice and snow tour related products increased more than 10 times year-on-year for the upcoming Spring Festival holidays on as of January 13, while orders for both outbound and inbound tours increased more than tenfold on a yearly basis, the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Friday. 

Meanwhile, overseas destinations including Africa have also become more attractive to domestic tourists. Kenya's popularity increased by 133 percent on Chinese travel platform Mafengwo, while Egypt's grew by 210 percent over the last week, the company told the Global Times on Friday.