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E-commerce development on fast track in Tibet


2022-06-02 17:02:54

On the vast plateau, one express delivery truck after another traveled through the Kunlun Mountains Pass at an altitude of more than 4,700 meters, heading to Lhasa, capital of southwest China"s Tibet Autonomous Region.

The scene on the Qinghai-Tibet highway was captured in "the Yangtze River," the latest documentary by Japanese director Ryo Takeuchi. The work is in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan this year.

In the first episode of the documentary, the director got on an express delivery truck and headed to the source of the Yangtze River on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for filming. The truck, loaded with various daily necessities, departed from Chengdu, capital of southwest China"s Sichuan Province, and the entire trip took about 60 hours.

"I didn"t expect that online shopping would develop so fast here," said Takeuchi. He recalled that 10 years ago, when he first arrived at the plateau for a documentary, he did not find a single express delivery truck. Now all the Tibetan herders he met use smartphones, enjoy online shopping and watch short videos in a similar fashion to their urban counterparts.

The volume of online retail sales in Tibet grew 61.1 percent year on year to 18.97 billion yuan (about 2.8 billion U.S. dollars) in 2021. All 74 counties and districts in the region have enjoyed the convenience of rural e-commerce, according to the regional commerce department. The growth rate ranks first in the country.

"All the clothes I wear were bought online, and they are much cheaper and more stylish than those sold in the stores nearby," said Tenzin, 27, from Zhentang Township on the China-Nepal border in Dinggye County in the city of Xigaze.

Besieged by forests at the foot of Qomolangma deep in the Himalayas, the township has an average altitude of over 2,000 meters and is home to more than 2,600 Sherpa people. In 2020, a high-standard highway section reaching the township opened to traffic, giving delivery trucks a convenient route to make regular deliveries.

According to the regional department of transport, Tibet has built or renovated rural roads totaling 38,200 km since 2016, bringing the total length of rural roads in the plateau region to more than 90,000 km by the end of 2021.

The improved transport facilities, telecommunication networks and courier service coverage have contributed to e-commerce expansion in the region, with online shops and consumption surging rapidly. Local specialties are sold to other parts of China via online e-commerce platforms.

In a small village in Zayu County in the city of Nyingchi, the main habitat of the Deng people, villager Delung has become an online celebrity attracting more than 2 million followers on various short video platforms. Deng, also known as Dengba, mainly resides in Zayu. They have their own oral language, but no written one.

Delung produces short videos about the Deng culture, the landscape and customs of Zayu, and sells local specialities through his livestreams, such as wild Ganoderma lucidum, or lingzhi, and morel mushroom.

Last year, he helped sold out local specialties at a total value of more than 1 million yuan.

Official data show that online retail sales of agricultural products reached 1.72 billion yuan in Tibet in 2021. Typical health foods such as caterpillar fungus and Ganoderma lucidum had high sales.

"Through short videos and livestreaming, I expect to lead my fellow villagers to a better life," Delung said.

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