As the pandemic took hold, China’s e-commerce titan showed how flexible its global infrastructure could be in a crisis. Early on, Alibaba turned its Electronic World Trade Platform—an entity designed for public-private cooperation—into a hub for sourcing personal protective equipment in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Its Alibaba.com B2B platform has helped distribute more than 26 million pieces of PPE to health care providers. Researchers, meanwhile, have relied on its cloud-computing resources to collaborate on COVID-19 vaccine development.
Outside the medical realm, Alibaba extended lifelines to the small sellers who represent much of its customer base. Its Taobao Live e-commerce platform helped farmers reach new customers after their supply lines were broken. And Alibaba helped provide some $20 billion in low-interest loans and cash advances to cushion small-business owners in the downturn—an act that showed the prowess of its soon-to-be independent financial unit, Ant Group.