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E-Commerce Integration and Economic Development: Evidence from China -- by Victor Couture, Benjamin Faber, Yizhen Gu, Lizhi Liu

The number of people buying and selling products online in China has grown from practically zero in 2000 to more than 400 million by 2015. Most of this growth has occurred in cities. In this context, the Chinese government recently announced the expansion of e-commerce to the countryside as a policy priority with the objective to close the rural-urban economic divide. As part of this agenda, the government entered a partnership with a large Chinese e-commerce firm. The program invests in the necessary logistics to ship products to and sell products from tens of thousands of villages that were largely unconnected to e-commerce trading. The firm also installs an e-commerce terminal at a central village location, where a terminal manager assists households in buying and selling products through the firm's e-commerce platform. This paper combines a new collection of survey and administrative microdata with a randomized control trial (RCT) that we implement across villages in collaboration with the e-commerce firm. We use this empirical setting to provide evidence on the potential of e-commerce integration to foster economic development in the countryside, the underlying channels and the distribution of the gains from e-commerce across households and villages.