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China's E-Commerce: Empowering Rural Women?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2019

Haiqing Yu
School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne Australia. Email:
Lili Cui*
Department of E-commerce, School of Information Management and Engineering, Shanghai University of Finance & Economics.
Email: (corresponding author).


This article employs a feminist political economy perspective to explore the connection between e-commerce, entrepreneurship and gender in rural China. It discusses gendered engagement with, and discourses of, the new digital economy represented by Taobao villages, and asks: how has the success of rural e-commerce impacted the evolving gender mandate and hierarchy in a competitive market economy in rural China? Has rural women's participation in digital economic activities changed their gendered roles and the patriarchal structure in their family and village? This article argues that women's socioeconomic enablement does not necessarily translate into cultural and political empowerment. The enabling potential of female entrepreneurship is tempered by traditional constraints on women and digital capitalist exploitation of their cheap, flexible and docile labour.



Research Article
Copyright © SOAS University of London 2019 

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