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Alibaba is bypassing Amazon in China

In Ganyu, China: Busy on Alibaba Singles Day last November. Photo: VCG / Getty

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce gargantuan, says it isn't in a race with Amazon for U.S. customers, but that it is eager to take U.S. merchandise to its 550 million customers in China.

Why it matters: American politicians and technologists are unusually sensitive to what's often perceived as China horning in on American customers, markets and tech. But they may be missing a different game — using an elaborately built system, Alibaba is linking U.S. merchants directly to millions of Chinese customers, bypassing Amazon and other American platforms as an essential way-station to the Chinese market.