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Alibaba's Jack Ma on the floor of the NYSE. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Alibaba, which seemed contained to China for the first two decades of its existence, is steadily buddying up with U.S. companies and making inroads into the American market.

Driving the news: In just the past 12 months, Alibaba has teamed up with Kroger and Tiffany & Co, among other American companies, and has brought its payment system, Alipay, to thousands of U.S. stores. The latest partnership is with Office Depot — and the millions of small businesses which buy their office supplies there.

The big picture: It's increasingly difficult for small U.S. retailers to go up against giants like Amazon and Walmart, which have the cheapest prices and the fastest delivery options. Amazon's competitors, Alibaba among them, have happily turned this into a business opportunity, selling logistics and manufacturing services to the smaller companies that want to battle the behemoth.

  • Through the new deal, the 10 million small businesses that buy supplies at Office Depot will be able to tap Alibaba to set them up with Asian factories and call on Office Depot to help them with deliveries — all to cut their costs. They'll also be able to sell on Alibaba's site, which has more than 600 million active users.

Office Depot, like many brick and mortar companies in the age of Amazon, is struggling. Its stock price has fallen from around $9.50 in March 2015 to $3.50 today and its sales have shrunk from $15.5 billion in 2007 to $11 billion last year. The partnership with Alibaba is a play to stay relevant with a service offering for its customers as its traditional retailing business falters.

For Alibaba, a partnership with an old American brand is helpful at a time when U.S. tensions with China keep escalating. "We recognize that the brand that Office Depot has matters," John Caplan, head of Alibaba.com's U.S. arm tells Axios.

Go deeper

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.