Thousands of years ago, in ancient China, traders traveled the Silk Road by camel and horse, overcoming hardship to sell Chinese silk, tea and other specialties to the West, meanwhile importing glass products, pearls, fruit and vegetables from abroad.

Now, in a live-broadcasting room at the ongoing 2022 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, a Sri Lankan streamer is introducing various biscuits and black teas from Sri Lanka to customers all over China using just a cell phone.

With a few clicks of the finger, customers can purchase alpaca dolls from Peru, soap from Syria, rice and coffee beans from Laos, and other products from countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the goods delivered direct to their door.

The boom in such convenient services can be attributed to the success of mobile Internet and digital trade. At the CIFTIS this year, experts pointed out that digital technology has become a new growth engine for BRI countries.

“The COVID-19 epidemic led to unprecedented supply chain disruption,” said Zhang Xiangchen, deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization. “However, it has also become a catalyst for businesses worldwide to significantly accelerate the supply of services through digital networks.”


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According to Zhang, digitalization is fostering a new circle of innovation in services, which presents great opportunities for economic growth. “Global trade is constantly shaped and reshaped by technological innovations.”

A report entitled “Digital Trade: Development and Cooperation,” which was released at the CIFTIS, shows that the global cross-border trade in digital services exceeded 3.8 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021, accounting for 63.6 percent of the total trade in services.

China’s digital trade is developing rapidly, with its total imports and exports of digital services growing 22.3 percent year-on-year in 2021 to reach 359.69 billion U.S. dollars.

“The digital Silk Road plays a leading role in high-quality BRI cooperation,” said Wang Xiaohong, deputy head of the information department of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

“China’s software information technology, BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, blockchain technology and many digital products and services, such as games, animation, film and television, have all been widely used among BRI countries,” Wang said.

At the 2022 CIFTIS, which kicked off Wednesday, some enterprises from BRI countries also voiced their hopes of conducting further digital trade cooperation with China.

In the Pakistan Pavilion, Aqeel Ahmed Chaudhry, head of WINZA, a Pakistani jewelry brand, has been speaking fluent Mandarin while introducing his jewelry to Chinese and foreign customers during the six-day event. The dazzling array of more than 100 pieces of jewelry has attracted many customers.

Chaudhry has operated a store in Shanghai for three years and plans to open another one in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang in October. During this year’s CIFTIS, he visited some shopping malls in Beijing, hoping to enjoy Beijing’s preferential policies for foreign enterprises and open a new store in the Chinese capital next year.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has changed people’s consumption habits, making online shopping more popular, especially among the young. As a businessman, I have to adapt to the latest trend,” he said, adding that negotiations concerning online sales of his brand on China’s major e-commerce platforms and Tmall are underway.

“If enterprises can make better use of digital tools, they will become more efficient and competitive,” he said.

Originally published by Xinhua