经济学人官方译文 | 亚马逊和阿里巴巴代表着一种新型的企业集团。竞争对手和政府应如何去适应?



There be giants

Amazon and Alibaba represent a new type of conglomerate. How should rivals and governments adapt?

SHOPPERS will spend record sums online in the next few weeks—in China for Singles Day on November 11th, in America on Black Friday and around the world in the run-up to Christmas. E-commerce has been growing by 20% a year for a decade, shaking up industries from logistics to consumer goods. Nowhere does debate rage more fiercely about what this means than in America, where thousands of stores have shut this year and where retailing accounts for one in nine jobs.

Astonishingly, online shopping has only just got started. Last year it amounted to a mere 8.5% of the world’s retail spending. In America the share was about 10%. Its effects on business and society will be huge. Not just because retailing is a big employer that touches many industries, but also because its two greatest exponents, Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos, the founders of Alibaba and Amazon, have used it to amass a new sort of conglomerate (see our special report). The question is whether its creation will foster competition or demand restraint.
令人惊讶的是,网上购物才刚刚起步。去年它仅占全球零售总额的8.5%,在美国这个比例约为10%。网上购物将对商业和社会产生巨大的影响。这不仅因为零售业是一个涉及许多行业的大雇主,还因为其两大代表人物——阿里巴巴的创始人马云和亚马逊的创始人杰夫·贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos)利用这一行业汇聚起一类新的企业集团。问题是,这样的集团是会促进竞争,还是需要限制。

经济学人官方译文节选 | 亚马逊和阿里巴巴代表着一种新型的企业集团。竞争对手和政府应如何去适应?

In the past two decades Alibaba and Amazon have added ever more services, from cloud computing to video. The firms’ businesses will reinforce each other as consumers and companies become more likely to use their platforms, and diverse sources of revenue and data power further growth. As a result, the two giants sit at the centre of all sorts of activity. In America Amazon is showing, week by week, the havoc that an innovative e-commerce firm can wreak in a giant, mature market. In China Alibaba is showing how dramatically one company can reshape business in a fast-growing economy. They will not conquer every industry they touch but, as they expand, few firms will change as many sectors in as many places.

Through one lens, this is a boon for competition. The e-commerce sites of Amazon and Alibaba lower barriers to entry by providing a simpler, cheaper way for small manufacturers to distribute goods and find potential buyers. Local manufacturers are challenging multinational giants. Consumers benefit, as they can choose from more and better products than ever.


Yet as the giant e-commerce platforms grow, so does unease about their might. With access to cheap, patient capital, Amazon can make big investments, including in warehouses, artificial intelligence and other firms such as Whole Foods, a grocer it bought for $13.7bn this year. Those investments, combined with the vast amounts of data on the consumers and businesses on its platform, mean that competitors struggle to keep up.
然而,随着巨型电商平台日益发展,人们对其威力的担忧也逐步加深。有了廉价的长期投资资本,亚马逊可以做出大笔的投资,包括投资于仓库、人工智能和收购其他公司,比如今年它以137亿美元收购了食品杂货商全食超市(Whole Foods)。这些投资,再加上其平台上生成的有关消费者和企业的海量数据,令竞争对手难以匹敌。

Amazon’s challengers should learn from China, where Alibaba’s rivals are teaming up. Tencent began as a gaming and messaging company. It now has a thriving digital-payments business and is the biggest shareholder in JD.com, Alibaba’s closest e-commerce competitor. JD is working with other retailers and tech firms, too. In August it announced that shoppers could buy through Baidu, China’s leading search engine.

Amazon’s would-be competitors might follow a similar path, by forging partnerships. Walmart (another investor in JD), for example, seems to be adopting JD’s tactics, making its products available through Google’s voice assistant to counter Amazon’s Alexa. Facebook wants to make it easier for customers to buy goods featured in its ads. And Google, to the horror of some privacy advocates, is tracking consumers to help bricks-and-mortar shops see which online ads work. American firms may yet catch up with their Chinese counterparts.

Will that be enough to guarantee competition? Regulators must be vigilant. More mergers are now likely among both makers of consumer goods and retailers, as they seek the heft to battle Amazon. Deals between retailers and tech firms will complicate matters further.

Watch the giants

In antitrust cases America’s courts have tended to assume that new entrepreneurs would challenge profitable incumbents. But in America venture-capital funding for e-commerce firms is dropping, in part because investors think Amazon will be dominant. This newspaper has argued that regulators should weigh the effect of mergers on the control of data as well as market share—especially for Amazon, given its existing power and range. Antitrust rules, as with so much else in the Amazon era, look as if they will need updating.