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Alibaba invests big on Rural Taobao

Alibaba, Rural Taobao, online shopping

Last fall, 30-year-old Luo Rong quit his $30,000-a-year engineering job in Shanghai, moved back to his mountaintop village of Jade Peak with his wife and newborn baby and opened a shop with a big orange and green sign out front. The store is thinly stocked. There are a few packages of seeds, Skittles candy, some sweaters, sneakers and laundry soap — but no lack of customers.

去年秋天,30岁的罗荣辞掉了上海年薪3万美元的工程师工作,携妻子和刚出生的孩子一起返回高居山顶的玉峰村并开了一家店铺。这家店没有置办多少货品,有几袋种子、彩虹糖、几件毛衣、几双软底鞋和洗衣皂,却整日顾客盈门。

The main draw is Luo's computer and the big-screen display perched above him on the wall — both provided by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. From 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., breaking only for meals at his parents' house, Luo pecks away at his keyboard, helping his technology-challenged neighbors buy fertilizer, TVs and even electric cars on an Alibaba shopping site called Rural Taobao. Luo arranges the payments, as well as delivery to Jade Peak, and earns a commission from the sellers.

店里主要吸引人的是罗荣的电脑和高挂在墙上的大屏幕显示器。这两件设备都是由中国电子商务巨头阿里巴巴提供的。除去三餐去父母家短暂休息外,每天从7点半一直到23点,罗荣都在不停地敲击键盘,帮助他的技术盲邻居们在阿里巴巴旗下的购物网站"农村淘宝"上购买化肥、电视甚至电动车。罗荣负责安排支付和对玉峰村的送货,并从卖家赚取佣金。

"This is going to change the whole village," said Luo Laibing, a 56-year-old farmer who stopped by on Tuesday to purchase more than 1,000 pounds of fertilizer. "It's saving us money and time, and is making life much more convenient."

56岁的农民罗来兵说:"全村正因此发生变化。它节省了我们的金钱和时间,大大方便了我们的生活。"这位农民刚上门购买了约1000公斤化肥。

Rural Taobao is an ambitious effort by Alibaba to turn China's 600 million rural residents into online shoppers — and sellers — at a time when the company's growth in transactions is slowing and China's economic growth has ebbed to a 25-year low. In the last year and a half, the company has enlisted more than 15,000 village "partners" like Luo Rong and hopes to have at least 40,000 by this time next year. Alibaba says it plans to invest $1.6 billion in the effort through 2019, with the ultimate goal of opening 100,000 Rural Taobao centers.

"农村淘宝"是阿里巴巴作出的雄心勃勃的努力,目的是要将6亿中国农民发展成为网络买家和卖家。目前,该公司交易增长速度放慢,而中国经济增长下滑到25年来的新低。在过去一年半的时间里,阿里巴巴征募到超过1.5万名罗荣这样的农村合伙人。公司希望到明年此时这个数字至少要达到4万人。阿里巴巴计划,到2019年底投资16亿美元致力于这项事业的发展,最终目标是要开办10万个"农村淘宝"中心。

But the company is hardly going it alone. It's getting a big helping hand from the government, which is footing the bill to renovate storefronts like Luo's, sending officials out to talk up e-commerce to skeptical farmers, providing gratis space for new logistics centers and deploying propaganda workers to promote Rural Taobao.

该公司并非在单打独斗。它从政府方面获得了很大帮助,包括为像罗荣所开店铺这样的淘宝门店的翻新改造埋单,派出干部向疑虑重重的农民热推电子商务,为新物流中心提供免费用地,以及派出宣传工作者推销"农村淘宝"。

The ministries of commerce and finance have allocated $300 million to 200 rural counties to spend on warehouses, training and anything else that might push the project forward.

商务部和财政部向200个县拨款3亿美元,用于修建仓库、进行培训,以及其他促进该计划发展的措施。

While it's inconceivable that Uncle Sam would offer such assistance to, say, EBay or Amazon, China's Communist Party leaders see no problem working hand-in-glove with a company like Alibaba when it suits national aims. Government officials and Alibaba executives say Rural Taobao jibes neatly with national goals such as boosting consumer spending to fuel economic growth, narrowing the income gap between urban and rural citizens, promoting entrepreneurship and harnessing the power of the Internet to invigorate backward regions.

难以想象山姆大叔会向亿贝或亚马逊提供这样的帮助。然而,当与国家目标一致时,中国政府不认为与阿里巴巴这样的公司亲密合作有任何问题。政府官员和阿里巴巴的经理人员说,"农村淘宝"完全符合国家的目标,如促进消费支出以推动经济增长,缩小城乡收入差距,提倡创业,以及利用互联网的力量提振落后地区的活力。

And while China is still expecting an additional 200 million or so people to move from the countryside to its burgeoning cities, the government is aware that it can't urbanize everyone.

尽管预计中国另外还会有两亿左右的农村人口涌向迅速发展的城市,但政府清楚不可能使每个人都城镇化。

Already, Luo Rong has plans to move his storefront into a bigger space, which the government will pay to renovate. Rent will be about $500 a year. He envisions adding more services, including printing, copying and video-conferencing, so elderly parents in Jade Peak can chat with their sons and daughters who have moved to big cities.

罗荣已经计划要将他的门店搬到一块更大的场地上,政府将提供翻修改造费用,每年租金约500美元。他想增加更多服务,其中包括打印、复印和视频会议,这样玉峰村年迈的父母就可与移居大城市的子女网络聊天。

"Next I want to help sell our local products like potatoes and smoked meat online," said Luo Rong. "It's long been my dream to contribute to the development of my village."

罗荣表示:"下一步我想帮忙在网上销售我们本地的产品,如土豆和腊肉。为家乡的发展作出贡献早就是我的梦想。"

He's got neighbor Luo Laizhang, 45, selling eggs online; now, the two are trying to figure out how they can market the farmer's special breed of black chickens. "We have to figure out the slaughtering, packaging and transport," says Yuan Chunjiang, Rural Taobao regional manager for the eastern part of Jiangxi province. "It's a bit complicated."

他的邻居、45岁的罗来章在网上卖鸡蛋,两人现在正计划将罗来章特有的黑鸡品种推向市场。

There is great room to grow e-commerce in rural areas, Alibaba believes. Of the 600 million rural Chinese, only 77 million shopped online in 2014, according to data from the China Internet Network Information Center. In the first quarter of 2015, less than 10% of online purchases made through Alibaba platforms were shipped to rural areas. Alibaba will have the opportunity to offer them a wide variety of services, including loans through its affiliate Ant Financial and financial services.

阿里巴巴认为,在农村地区发展电子商务有很大空间。根据中国互联网络信息中心提供的数据,2014年中国6亿农业人口中只有7700万在网上购物;在2015年第一季度,通过阿里巴巴平台网购的产品只有不到10%运往农村地区。阿里巴巴将向"农村淘宝"用户提供类别广泛的服务,其中包括它下属蚂蚁金服的贷款服务以及其他金融服务。

2016-06-22

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