Taobao bans sale of foreign media

05 Mar 2017

China’s leading ecommerce platform Taobao announced that its sellers will no longer be allowed to trade in “media” produced overseas. The ban covers publications and electronic media, such as video games and music.

The move is seen as part of efforts by Taobao and parent company Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) to clean up IP-issues on the platform.

The move also signals Alibaba’s desire to cosy up to the Chinese government. Indications are that the “overseas” products banned under the new restrictions include those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Taobao has long functioned as a grey market route for overseas printed materials banned by the Chinese government to make it into the mainland, a situation which has come under increased scrutiny after the alleged kidnapping of five people linked to Hong Kong-based book publisher Causeway Bay Books in 2015.

Last month, two men, Dai Xuelin and Zhang Xiaoxiong, were jailed in China for selling Hong Kong-published books (more here).

The announcement coincided with a recent public spat between with a National People’s Congress Standing Committee member regarding Taobao.

Huang Jianping, CEO of the Marco Polo Group, publicly accused Taobao of being a shadow economy and questioned the efficacy of IP-enforcement work being undertaken by the company. Alibaba CEO Jack Ma replied to the accusations, noting that their IP-enforcement efforts had made thousands of interventions on behalf of the Marco Polo Group alone.     

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Tom Marling

Tom is a PhD candidate in Chinese History at Hong Kong Baptist University, and former PR consultant in Mainland China. He joined the AIM Group in 2016 as a writer/analyst.