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I am trying to play and then record audio using ALSA inside a docker container, based on Ubuntu 16.04. Starting with a fresh container, I've tried following the example found in the official ALSA documentation on the loopback device, and using QXIP/baresip-docker as a starting point, but whenever I run arecord -L, I get the following message:

arecord: device_list:268: no soundcards found...

How can I initiate a loopback audio system inside a docker container?

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You need to pass the required devices using the --device directive to docker run:

docker run --device=/dev/snd:/dev/snd

This makes devices under /dev/snd/* available to the container. Good luck!

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