From a budding idea in a Hangzhou apartment to the largest e-commerce marketplace in the Middle Kingdom; over the past 15 years, Taobao has grown side-by-side with the phenomenal rise of China’s economy.  For Chinese users, it’s increasingly part of people’s daily lives, not only as the most popular shopping destination but also a platform where millions of small retailers make a living.

The C2C e-commerce site is often referred to by its patrons as “Almighty Taobao” for selling everything you could possibly imagine. This could be attributed to the quick minds of Taobao retailers, who are known for their agility in adjusting marketing efforts and tailoring products to fit a shifting landscape.

USB disks and Nokia feature phones were beyond a doubt among the bestsellers at the beginning of this century in a world that pre-dates the smartphone era. Meanwhile, the sales of thermometers and masks jumped when SARS hit China in 2003. When looking back, it’s fairly obvious that the trends on the Taobao marketplace speak for China’s social changes over its historical timeline. Every major social development in the country has materialized in the form of Taobao goods over the past 15 years, a period when Chinese people experienced fundamental changes in their lives.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.