Shaping a Digitalising Infrastructure: Logistics and the Dynamics of Chinese-Southeast Asian E-Commerce

Christopher Foster


The paper seeks to examine logistics related to e-commerce in Southeast Asia (i.e. domestic and cross-border movement of goods). The major argument made is that e-commerce success increasingly revolves around the forms of logistics and as such, we need to understand the major directions.

Drawing on the literature examining infrastructure, the paper examines two perspectives on logistics. Firstly, an STS (Science and technologies studies) approaches allows us to unpack the tensions between globally “deregulated logistic regimes” and Chinese “point-to-point e-commerce regimes” in the region. Secondly, bringing these two regimes into debates around infrastructure-led development allows us to consider the broader political economy and economic rivalry embedded within the installation of these logistics regimes.

Through analysis of Thailand, we argue that Chinese e-commerce regimes provide a potentially useful direction to allow states to better manage challenges and provide opportunities for domestic firms. However, given that key nodes of e-commerce logistics are primarily controlled by Chinese actors, they potentially skew e-commerce and trade further towards China. In particular, the forms and control of platforms, rules and logistics are likely to position digitalised Southeast Asian firms as low-value digitalised producers, and China as adding value.

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