Spotlight: China's mobile payment at world's fingertips

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-01 14:17:48|Editor: Yang Yi
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BEIJING, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- The digital revolution in China appeared to be a marvel to the world, as the country's leading mobile payment businesses began to facilitate people's lives across the globe.


Can you get by a day in Beijing without a wallet? In April last year, a CNN correspondent Will Ripley gave it a try and he survived well.

"Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about going an entire day in Beijing without my wallet, but I was surprised to discover just how easy and convenient it is," said Ripley in his report.

He ordered "a delicious fried crepe" --Jianbing-- for breakfast at a cramped roadside shop, opened Wechat app on his smartphone, and scanned a Wechat pay-bar-code sticker on the window. Seconds later, by inputting a 4-digit password for payment, and the transaction was completed.

Carrying a smartphone, Ripley also hailed taxis, ordered coffee, paid for meals at restaurants without trouble.

In recent years, mobile payment has sprung up in major Chinese cities as a preference over cash and cards when people buy goods or services from various businesses ranging from street vendors, supermarket chains to fancy shopping centers.

Electronic payments are mainly processed through China's Alipay and Wechat apps. By linking credit and debit cards with personal accounts on the two apps, people could transfer money and complete payments with a few tips of fingers.

According to a UN report published in April, China's total mobile payments in value have increased some 20-fold in four years to reach 20 trillion yuan (2.9 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2016.

Alipay, established by China's e-commerce titan Alibaba Group in 2004, released data showing that 71 percent of online payments on its platform was completed through smartphones in 2016.

About one third of foreigners in China have used Alipay by 2016, said Alipay's parent company Ant Financial Services Group.

"My wallet is no longer in use. I can buy and eat whatever I want simply with a fingertip on my phone," Lin Jinlong, an overseas student from Cambodia told Xinhua.

"We can also order food at home, which is super convenient. If I were at home in Cambodia, I would have to go outdoors," Lin said.

Mobile payment has become a popular way of life in China. Besides purchasing goods, users can take full advantage of the apps to pay water and electricity bills as well as traffic fines, unlock shared bicycles that are ubiquitous in urban areas, pay for bus and taxi rides, and make appointments at hospitals.


The celebration of Thailand's Songkran Festival in April marks a high season for Chinese tourists to visit the country. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other cities, Wechat Pay and Alipay are widely used by Chinese visitors in stores, restaurants, and even massage parlors.

"I don't need to take my wallet out, I don't need to wait for change, there is some discount and no commission, the payment method has so many advantages," a woman from Beijing surnamed Liu told Xinhua while shopping in downtown Bangkok.

China's mobile payment service took its first step toward global market in 2008 by supporting cross-border in-store payment, and has since been venturing out to overseas market to facilitate Chinese travelers' experience abroad.

Alipay now partners with more than 120,000 businesses covering catering services, supermarkets, convenient stores, duty free shops, airports, department stores and theme parks in 27 countries and regions in Asia, Europe, America, and even the Arctic area.

"Alipay is a really easy and convenient payment method for Chinese customers. When they come to store and they realize that we accept Alipay, they're presently surprised and they're quite excited," said Hannah Jackson, Business Development Project Manager of the Body Shop in London.

Rita Liu, head of Alipay EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), pointed out that Alipay also serves as a marketing platform for overseas businesses targeting Chinese consumers.

"For example, Chinese tourists in London can browse through local commercial areas and recommended shops on the app, and receive discounts and coupon information," Liu said.

Above all of these, Alipay squeezes margins to provide favorable exchange rates to its 520 million users, she added.

"Chinese people have strong purchasing power, and it will continue increasing with the rise of the middle class," she said. "Foreign businesses value Chinese customers and see the opportunity, and that's why we are pushing global outreach as our priority."

Chinese people's top shopping destinations include South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, to name a few. Similarly, Wechat pay serves Chinese people in a dozen countries and regions, and processes payments in more than 10 foreign currencies.

The layout of mobile payment services overseas resembles a sophisticated ecosystem, encompassing every stage of outbound travels, from reserving flight tickets and booking hotels, to shopping at airports and commercial areas, dining and travelling in cities.

"Our vision is to realize a digital lifestyle. We believe that people' s payment and consumption habits will be more digital-leaning in the future," Rita Liu said.


Before strolling on the streets of the Chinese city of Hangzhou in early 2016, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Indian e-commerce company PayTM, never thought that cryptic QR codes prevalent in China could solve a problem that had troubled his company.

The company needed abundant bar code scanners to promote mobile payment in India at the time, but quickly adopted the Chinese way of printing QR codes on paper to reduce cost and funding risks after Sharma's trip.

PayTM only had less than 30 million users by February 2015, and now the number rocketed to 220 million, making it India's top mobile wallet and the third largest in the world, exceeding Paypal.

Behind its success stands Ant Financial, who partnered with PayTM since 2015.

Ant Financial sent technical staff to India to help PayTM engineers build a localized mobile payment platform, exporting cutting-edge technologies in risk control, cheat-proof and anti-money laundering systems for mobile payment.

Sharma said years ago people would say China learnt from the Silicon Valley. Now, the Silicon is learning from China on its advanced digital technologies.

Inspired by Alipay, PayTM discovered local features. People use the app to pay for rides on Tuktuk, a commonly used motor tricycle service, scan codes on posters to buy Bollywood movie tickets, and scan codes on merit boxes in temples to donate.

Technical and business output of such can also be found in Wechat Pay, as it partners with PayU, one of India's largest mobile payment providers.

Similar moves go beyond India into markets having huge demand for mobile payment, with Ascend Money in Thailand, Mynt in the Philippines, Emtek in Indonesia, Kakao in South Korea and others forming partnerships with their Chinese models.

"Forming partnership is our core strategy, because our partners know local businesses and market best," said Rita Liu.

Different regions may not at the same pace in adopting mobile payment, as Liu sees it, but China's marveling digital revolution will be recognized more in the long run.

"We believe mobile payment is an irresistible trend in the world at large, but changes need time," she said.