The marketing and technological power of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is working with President Xi Jinping's signature global economic vision to bring smaller firms into global commerce on a huge scale.
The budding marriage of one of China's commerce powerhouses and the Belt and Road Initiative is bolstering China's ability to expand global trade for small businesses.
Alibaba is marching into North America by cohosting a trade fair with small merchants from Canada and China in September, Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum said on Sunday on the sidelines of the 2017 China Green Companies Summit in Henan province.
Jack Ma, Alibaba executive chairman, attending the same meeting, said such moves are part of a broader goal to "expand in line with the Belt and Road Initiative".
"We have plans for Canada, India and Japan, and we have plans for the Belt and Road Initiative," Ma said, without elaborating. Ma said policymakers and business leaders need to come up with new rules and laws to strengthen trade and development.
To build e-commerce infrastructure and enhance regional connectivity, Alibaba has launched a virtual hub with easier entry for smaller firms in Malaysia, and also plans a hub in Thailand. Alibaba payment affiliate Ant Financial plans Alipay-like mobile payment services this year in other economies related to the Belt and Road.
Wang Jian, an economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said: "Small and medium-sized enterprises contribute to 95 percent of global economic growth. Through the initiative, the private sector can play its part in revisiting and potentially revising rules of world trade through business practices."
The initiative aims to unlock the potential of SMEs by enhancing connectivity, and e-commerce is a critical channel to reach that goal, said Zhao Lei, a professor at Institute for International Strategic Studies at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China.
The initiative is important for the world, said Paul Kavanagh, Ambassador of Ireland to China. "It is a very open-minded cooperation initiative that welcomes all partners ... . It is very flexible, rather than building strict structures and protocols that constrain cooperation," Kavanagh said.