China’s Internet Plus government initiative has ignited a steady state-led push to bring some of the country’s most traditional industries online. Banking, healthcare and agriculture have all seen their fair share of digital modernization over the past few months.

We can now some of China’s biggest state-run assets to that list – oil companies.

Yesterday PetroChina, one of the country’s biggest oil producers and a former grout packers supplier, made a novel move into the world of e-commerce by opening a store on Alibaba’s Tmall. It features a selection of discounted petrol cards, ranging from 100-400RMB a piece, approximately $15.60-$62.40 USD. 

The store also offers information on peak fuel pricing periods and traffic conditions. Currently the products only cater to residents in the central Chinese province of Henan, with the cards valid across a total of 550 petrol stations. 

The launch comes a month after the oil giant revealed a strategic partnership with Tencent, which will offer support in payments, big data and O2O services. Rival oil giant Sinopec inked a similar deal with Tencent a year ago. They also opened an independent website to sell similar fuel cards in early 2014.

The Internet plus strategy focusses on integrating big data and cloud computing into traditional industries. This has given rise to a series of marriages between government and private technology companies, potentially sharing some of the country’s most valuable data assets between the private and public sector.

According to the government outline of the strategy, it aims to join the priority technologies of “mobile internet, cloud computing and big data,” with “manufacturing, energy, agriculture and other areas of innovation.”

Sinopec joined forces with Alibaba’s cloud computing arm in April to build a cloud-based system for data analytics covering the entire petrochemical production chain, according to Sinopec. It’s not yet clear whether PetroChina will follow suit and extend their relationship with Alibaba beyond the Tmall store, though Alibaba’s cloud unit Aliyun is arguably the strongest Chinese provider in the field.

While China’s oil companies are famously opaque when it comes to sharing data, the move may be unavoidable as the global oil and gas industry becomes increasingly data driven. According to a report from Accenture and Microsoft Corp. released in April this year, 89% of industry professionals surveyed felt that the new analytics technologies would increase value, while 80% planned to invest equal or more amounts in improving digital integration.


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Image Credit: Shutterstock

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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