BEIJING: The Alibaba group, Mr. Ma’s brainchild, Jack Ma has speed up to tap the economic potential of Xinjiang and other neighbouring areas to develop e-commerce, cloud computing and big data.
“From here, we see an opportunity, an opportunity to sell produce from Xinjiang to the entire country and the world,” said Mr. Ma, recently at the Xinjiang E-commerce forum. He added: “Cross-border trade will be our next priority.” By focusing on China’s less developed western region, Mr. Ma is riding on the New Silk Road initiative of President Xi Jinping, which hopes to develop an “economic belt” along a land route that, eventually, will connect Asia with Europe. The Chinese have set aside a $40 billion dollar seed fund to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure along this route, including high-speed rail links, roads, energy pipelines, fibre-optic highways and industrial parks.
Gu Jinbiang, public relations director of the Alibaba told China Daily that the group has taken into account the development of the Silk Road Economic belt, to further its plans. Mr. Gu stressed that Xinjiang and the province of Gansu, which also falls along the Silk Road, are rich in farm and pasture products, but have limited market access. Consequently, Alibaba is sending a team that hopes to connect local businesses with the online portal.
The Alibaba group has thrived on linking small businesses in remote areas to the national and global markets, after the former patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s reforms generated localised growth in areas, which lacked wider market access. Speaking in New Delhi last week, Mr. Ma asserted that over the next three years “one of the key strategies for Alibaba is to globalise and to make sure that we can help more small businesses around the globe, use our services to do businesses.” Alibaba’s Xinjiang initiative is exceptional as the region has been wracked by violence driven by a vicious separatist movement. Last Friday, 15 people, including 11 attackers were killed, when they targeted a street full of food stalls with explosives and knives.
Around 3,000 ex-servicemen are being recruited to protect residential communities in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, the newspaper, Global Times, affiliated with the Communist Party of China is reporting. Xinjiang is central to the development of the New Silk Road, which starts from Xian, in Shaanxi province, which is also on Mr. Ma’s radar screen. Mr. Gu, of Alibaba, acknowledged that the group “is also discussing with authorities in Shaanxi province, and hopes to reach an agreement soon.” From Xian, the former imperial capital and home to the famed Terracotta warriors, the Silk Road heads towards Urumqi, and then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, it ends up in Venice. Venice is also the point of termination of another parallel Chinese initiative-the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which passes through the Malacca Straits, before entering the Indian Ocean and then makes it way to Europe via the Suez Canal.