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Harbin e-commerce fuels cross-border trade surge

Updated : 2014-07-01

By Han Tianyang ( China Daily )

Harbin is not only the capital of border province Heilongjiang - it is also at the frontier of an online sales boom between China and Russia.

It is home to several new e-commerce websites including DHgate, foxmall and Come365.

An e-commerce website that sells cell phones and tablet computers to Russian buyers, foxmall was jointly launched by 23 Guangdong-based companies at the end of last year.

According to Zhao Chaosheng, general manager of foxmall, the southern city Shenzhen is the company's product source and Harbin in the north is its logistics base and website operations center.

Zhao said the website chose to locate in Harbin mainly because of the city's advantage in logistics and talent.

"Only in Harbin can we recruit enough talent in Russian language and trade at one time," he said.

In March, the General Administration of Customs approved Harbin as a pilot city for cross-border e-commerce.

A key part of the pilot program is to build an e-commerce website that is expected to be launched later this year. It is expected to improve efficiency in government supervision on cross-border e-commerce and help companies with customs clearance, currency settlement and logistics.

The city plans to set up a distribution center for express packages to Russia, an online Ruble settlement center and the nation's largest e-commerce talent base for China-Russia trade.

The city government has also applied to the central government for approval to establish a Harbin bonded area, which may later develop into a free trade zone.

Financial center

With bilateral trade between China and Russia expected to reach $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020, Harbin wants to become the financial center for trade with Russia.

In 2008, Harbin Bank was the pioneer in Russian currency business when it established the nation's first ruble cash conversion center.

The Heilongjiang branch of China Bank opened operations in Khabarovsk in June 2012 and later in Vladivostok.

By the end of 2013, 12 commercial banks in Heilongjiang had connections with 24 commercial banks in Russia.

According to local officials, when the online payment platform for China-Russia cross-border e-commerce is ready, Russian buyers will be able to pay with rubles for purchases on Chinese e-commerce websites.

Efficient logistics

A transportation hub for commodities from China to Russia, Harbin has made strides in logistics efficiency.

Russian buyers now enjoy delivery of their online purchases in a week or two instead of the two months it took before.

Last November, the city opened direct cargo flights to Ekaterinburg that had transported 400 tons of cargo by the end of April.

Harbin Airport now has nearly 20 flights to Russia. Four Russian airlines have operations at the airport.

Last June the Harbin Railway Bureau started a freight express train to Manzhouli, a border port city connecting to Russia.

Among the 15 roads that connect Harbin and the cities or counties on the China-Russia border, eight are highways or first-class roads.

Earlier last month, the nation's first border warehouse for e-commerce with Russia began operation in Harbin.

Online sellers in south China store their best-selling products in the warehouse in advance to offer immediate delivery for Russian buyers.

Local officials said that they plan to build the city into the nation's biggest logistics zone for e-commerce with Russia and the rest of northeast Asia.

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