All Abstracts > WeChat and Chinese e-commerce in Myanmar and Cambodia
WeChat and Chinese e-commerce in Myanmar and Cambodia
Author | Affiliation:
Elisa Oreglia | King’s College London
In northern Myanmar, mobile phone users move between the Western and the Chinese internets with ease, switching from Facebook to Wechat according to their interlocutors, to what kind of business they want to carry on, what currency they have available, what news they are interested in, or who they want to date. This seamless, personal use is based on local Burmese people’s deep familiarity with China, on the one hand, and yearning to be part of a conversation with the West on the other. It also happens against the backdrop of controversial but increasingly tight commercial and political ties between Myanmar and China. Cambodia, on the other hand, has been an enthusiastic partner of the Belt and Road Initiative, including its digital components, and a recipient of significant Chinese aid, soft diplomacy and financial investments (Nyíri, 2016). Despite Facebook and Youtube market dominance, Alibaba has become the e-commerce platform of choice for small and medium enterprises, and has recently announced the imminent opening its Greater Mekong logistic center, while WeChat is trying to position itself as the app of choice for e-commerce for individuals. Drawing from initial fieldwork in both Myanmar and Cambodia on the presence of Chinese digital infrastructures and their adaptation to the local contexts, this paper examines how grassroot engagement with the “Chinese internet” both reinforces and challenges the goals and vision of the Digital Silk Road.
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