(Nov 13): It is difficult to know whether Hangzhou is now more famous as a site of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding or for the gardens and temples of West Lake. Certainly, for the commercially focused, it is the hi-tech, cross-border e-commerce trade zone developments that first come to mind.

The province of Guizhou is more closely identified with the colourful Miao and Dong minority groups than with any hi-tech developments, but the capital, Guiyang, is the largest cross-border e-commerce development zone after Hangzhou. The city’s work on blockchain enabling of cross-border ecommerce, authentication of products and facilitation of trade documentation is, in some ways, more fundamentally important than the work done in Hangzhou. These are the nuts and bolts of trade rather than the high-profile glitz of consumer e-commerce that characterize Hangzhou.

Guiyang is a good example of the way the unexpected sneaks up on our thinking. Commercial survival depends not just on being quick-footed but on early recognition of the strategic changes so that business can be effectively positioned.

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