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Alibaba forges cooperation with Chongqing on connected cars, digital infrastructure as e-commerce giant bolsters ties with more local governments

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and authorities in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing have pledged deeper collaboration in areas such as connected cars and digital infrastructure, days after the Hangzhou-based company forged a new cooperation agreement with regulators in its eastern home city.

Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Yuan Jiajun and mayor Hu Henghua on Thursday called on Alibaba to "strengthen" its operations in the city, while praising the firm for its contributions to the municipality's development during a meeting with company chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong, according to a report by local newspaper Chongqing Daily. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Yuan, who had worked in Alibaba's home province of Zhejiang for eight years until late 2022, said Chongqing and the company can now plan to cooperate in a range of areas including connected cars, digital infrastructure and rural development. The municipal government also assured the delivery of "quality services" for businesses operating in the city.

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That collaboration is in line with the country's grand digitalisation plan, unveiled earlier this month by the ruling Communist Party and the State Council, which prioritises digital infrastructure and data resources to create a "digital China" by 2025.

Alibaba Group Holding chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong meets Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Yuan Jiajun on March 16, 2023. Photo: Handout alt=Alibaba Group Holding chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong meets Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Yuan Jiajun on March 16, 2023. Photo: Handout>

Zhang's meeting with Chongqing's top officials comes days after Alibaba signed a new cooperation pact with Hangzhou's Market Regulation Bureau, which puts the e-commerce giant in a leading role to bring more internet firms to the city.

In February, Alibaba pledged to speed up construction at the latest phase of its global headquarters in the Yuhang district of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, after the company signed a fresh cooperation pact with local authorities.

Alibaba's latest initiatives with Chongqing and Hangzhou reflect the company's improved relationship with local governments after Beijing eased its regulatory crackdown on the country's tech industry last year.

Zhejiang's new Communist Party Secretary, Yi Lianhong, visited Alibaba's main campus in the provincial capital last December in a show of support for the company, more than a year after the State Administration for Market Regulation slapped the firm with an 18.2 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) fine for breaching the country's anti-monopoly law.

Yi's visit came two days after China's Central Economic Work Conference, chaired by President Xi Jinping, issued a statement saying that the country's Big Tech platform enterprises, such as Alibaba, would be encouraged to "fully display their capabilities" in growth, job creation and international competition.

The new collaboration deals that Chongqing and Hangzhou separately made with Alibaba also reflect a broader trend among local governments across China to pursue programmes that support the country's economic recovery efforts after the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Chongqing branch of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission has granted approval for the capital expansion of Ant Group's consumer credit unit. Ant Group is the financial technology affiliate of Alibaba.

That expansion plan, which increased the capitalisation of Chongqing Ant Consumer Finance to 18.5 billion yuan from 8 billion yuan, marks another step in Ant Group's restructuring programme to comply with fintech regulations.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.