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Hard-working couriers deliver 100 million packages a day in China

By Liu Ning (People's Daily Online)    14:11, May 25, 2017


Express delivery is a multi-billion-dollar business in China thanks to the rapid growth of e-commerce. A total of 31.3 billion packages were delivered in China in 2016, according to China's State Post Bureau. That figure is close to half of the 70 billion packages delivered around the world each year.

However, delivering nearly 100 million packages a day is not enough in China, at least not in the eyes of Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, who recently reclaimed the title of wealthiest man in mainland China. During the 2017 Global Smart Logistics summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on May 22, the e-commerce tycoon delivered a speech in which he estimated that as many as 1 billion packages will be delivered every day in China in five to eight years.

Jack Ma estimated that 1 billion packages would be delivered each day in China in five to eight years during the 2017 Global Smart Logistics summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on May 22.

Listening to Ma’s speech were executives of major Chinese delivery firms including STO Express, YTO Express, ZTO Express and Yunda Express, which all began trading publicly last year.

Another major player in the industry is SF Express, the largest express delivery company in China. According to Bloomberg, SF Express has more than 15,000 vehicles and 13,000 service centers across the country. The company had revenue of 57.3 billion RMB ($8.6 billion) in 2016, and began trading publicly in January 2017. Wang Wei, chairman of SF Express, has become one of the richest men in China, with a net worth of $21.4 billion.

“Trading publicly or not doesn’t make too much difference to a delivery company,” said Ma during his speech at the summit in Hangzhou. “The only difference might be that ‘I’ (the boss of a delivery company) start to care what number I rank in wealth, which is pointless.”

At the end of the day, it’s not the founders and CEOs that physically deliver nearly 100 million packages in China. Behind that huge revenue is the labor of over 2 million hardworking couriers in China who ride scooters day and night to deliver parcels.

Over 2 million couriers ride scooters day and night to deliver parcels. Photo by Ning Liu.

“Hello, your parcel has arrived. Please come to the front gate to pick it up.” Express couriers make this phone call hundreds of times a day to alert their customers that a delivery is imminent.

Starting June 1, the income of couriers for six major companies in China will reportedly increase by 0.15 RMB ($0.02) per parcel delivered. Reacting to the news, Ji, a 30-year-old courier for ZTO Express, expressed his delight. He said he normally delivers about 5,000 parcels a month, earning a monthly income of 5,000 RMB ($726). With the pay raise, he can soon earn 750 RMB ($109) more per month than he used to.

Ji said he works for 13 to 14 hours a day, 30 days a month.

“The more parcels I deliver, the more I earn. Simple as that,” Ji said.

“Doing this line of work is really not easy due to the work intensity,” said Wang, a courier for YTO Express. “I even think about quitting when I’m super exhausted. Luckily, I have co-workers who stand by my side, even though they work for other companies."

Couriers for different companies who are assigned to the same area often become friends. One can regularly spot small clusters of the workers gathered by gates of universities, corporations and residential communities. They line up their delivery scooters, disembark and chat, sharing their happiness and their woes.

Couriers for different companies assigned to the same area often become friends. Photo by Ning Liu.

“No competition, just brotherhood,” Wang said. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Wu Chengliang)

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