More than 4,000 parcel shipments are generated every second in China, adding up to over 350 million each day, with the average person receiving more than 90 last year. This thriving parcel delivery industry has not only benefited Chinese consumers, altering their behavior and lifestyles, but has also created millions of jobs. China’s parcel delivery sector handled 132 billion consignments last year, up 19.4% year-on-year and accounting for over 60% of the global total.
As the network has expanded, the number of consignments processed in China each year has surged from over 10 billion in 2014 to over 100 billion since 2021. Since March 2023, the network has been handling more than 10 billion parcels a month. According to a report by the Development and Research Center of the State Post Bureau, China’s parcel delivery network is now more than 48.7 million kilometers long, with over 230,000 stations capable of serving 700 million clients a day. In 2022, the sector’s revenue amounted to about CNY4.1 trillion — a year-on-year increase of over 12% — with the global per capita delivery volume standing at around 24 parcels. “After years of rapid development, China is not only a leading and active express delivery market but also a catalyst for global parcel delivery development,” the center's Deputy Director Wang Xibin said.
According to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, China handled 110.6 billion parcels in 2022 while the United States handled 21.2 billion, Japan 9.1 billion, and the United Kingdom 5.1 billion. It added that parcel volume growth in China in 2022 was significantly affected by Covid-related shutdowns in Shanghai. But China changed its Covid-19 management strategy last year and lifted travel restrictions, resulting in double-digit growth in parcel volumes. At the sector’s annual conference in Beijing last month, Zhao Chongjiu, Director of the State Post Bureau, said: “Last year, the parcel delivery sector improved its ability to ensure smooth circulation, boosted its efficiency and capability to handle parcels and enhanced the development of intelligent delivery.”
China’s first express mail was delivered by China’s express mail service in 1980. In 1993, STO Express, the first private parcel delivery company in China, was founded in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. In the same year, SF Express, another major parcel delivery company, was established in Shunde, Guangdong province. Over the years, such services have been enhanced, becoming faster, safer, more convenient and extending to most parts of China. An SF Express automatic sorting center that opened in Beijing last year can handle up to 1.5 million parcels a day. As parcels of different sizes and destinations move along belts in the center, they are scanned and automatically placed in the appropriate bags, significantly improving efficiency. E-commerce companies also store products in warehouses across the country to expedite delivery times.
Ahead of this month’s Spring Festival, many Chinese people have opted to purchase and send their holiday gifts home using the parcel delivery system. In the past, people would bundle luggage filled with gifts onto trains, planes, cars and ships as they journeyed home for the holiday. China now has about 5 million couriers, many of whom hail from rural areas.
Zeng Junshan, Director of the Bureau’s Policy and Regulation Department, said China’s parcel delivery industry has established a successful formula and become a prominent calling card for China on the global stage. “The keyword for the next stage is to better connect with the world and strive to build a more secure, convenient, efficient, green, economical, inclusive and resilient sustainable express delivery system,” he said. “This system aims to better connect urban and rural areas, integrate production and life, communicate domestically and internationally, and reach all corners of the world, promoting the smooth flow of goods.” Wei Jigang, Researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, said: “The ultimate goal for the development of the parcel delivery sector is to extend the network to every corner and deliver all kinds of products to all people, regardless of their location.” The sector aims to handle 142.5 billion consignments this year.
Zhao, Director of the State Post Bureau, outlined the sector’s development strategy, goals and work priorities for 2024 at last month’s conference. He emphasized that the country’s parcel delivery network and logistics system will be further improved, with a focus on building major infrastructure and enhancing cargo transportation capabilities by air and road. The use of high-speed railways for parcel delivery and the promotion of multimode transportation will also be encouraged. The network and service quality in rural areas will also be enhanced, with scheduled passenger buses to be used to solve the “last kilometer” delivery problem in rural areas. Zhao said another major goal for the parcel delivery sector this year is green development, with companies to be encouraged to use more new energy vehicles for transporting parcels, the China Daily reports.