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Staff members walk past a logo of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba at its headquarters in Hangzhou. Photo: AFP

Alibaba’s home city removes name of Chinese e-commerce giant from future metro map

  • The upcoming metro railway station no longer appears as ‘Alibaba Station in the Hangzhou government’s new plan
  • The Airport Express line was set to open ahead of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, which have been postponed to next year

Hangzhou has renamed an upcoming metro railway station that was originally named after Alibaba Group Holding, the e-commerce giant based in the eastern Chinese city, replacing it with the name of a nearby industrial estate.

The 59-kilometre Airport Express line, currently under construction, was slated to have 17 stations, including the “Alibaba” station, according to a plan released in November by the Hangzhou Municipal Government. In the new plan published last month, however, that station was instead called “Haichuangyuan Station”.

It is rare in China to find public transport facilities named after businesses, making the inclusion of a company’s name in any public transport map a sign of prestige.

The “Huawei” station in the southern city of Shenzhen, located near the headquarters of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co, stands as an exception to the city’s regulation, which in 2019 said no metro station should carry the name of a business entity or residential compound.

The Alibaba Station was part of the Airport Express line, set to open ahead of the 19th Asian Games, which will host major events at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, pictured above. Photo: AFP

Shenzhen authorities later explained that they made the choice after considering the extensive size of Huawei’s campus and its long history, which made its name “locally significant”.

In Foshan, also located in Guangdong province, one metro station is named after Midea Group, the home appliance giant headquartered in the city.

The Hangzhou government did not explain the reason behind the name change of the Alibaba station, but it was not the only one given a new name. Hangzhou West is now called West Railway, while Xixi Wetland – named after a national park – is now Xixi Wetland North.

The Airport Express line was originally set to open ahead of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, which have now been postponed from September to next year to accommodate China’s strict Covid-19 control measures.
Alibaba, the most successful Chinese tech company to have emerged from Hangzhou to date, along with its fintech affiliate Ant Group became targets of a regulatory crackdown starting late 2020. Hupan University, a private business school created by Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma, subsequently closed its campus near Hangzhou’s famed West Lake.

Still, Alibaba continues to have considerable influence over China’s e-commerce and live-streaming sectors. It remains one of Hangzhou’s largest local enterprises and continues to play an important role in the city’s economy.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.