Ng: Cashless China

CHINA is known as the world’s factory.

When a friend said that “God made the world, and China made the rest,” it does seem that certain words ring true.

In a short span of 40 years, its manufacturing prowess has raised its economy to a level that has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

China has become the world’s second largest economy, and the world’s biggest trading nation and exporter. What is not known is that China is flexing its muscles and becoming a software giant as well.

Almost anywhere in China, you don’t see people paying in cash anymore. They use Alipay and WeChat Mobile Pay to do transactions, to book and buy almost anything.

In many ways, the level of internet awareness and usage is more advanced than most countries. Various estimates have it that there are close to a billion users of WeChat alone.

Earlier this year, I was embarrassed as I was looking for some CDs and DVD movies. I went to the department store to inquire where their DVD and music floor was. The girl looked at me peculiarly and said, “We don’t sell DVDs or CDs anymore.”

It’s not only that. I recently encountered vending machines where Alipay users can just have their faces scanned to pay for vending drinks. No need to validate through the phone.

In one instance, we visited a mall by car. When we entered the parking lot, the system merely took a picture of our car. As we entered the kiosk to pay, we put in our plate number, which then showed us a picture of our car to confirm. After we confirmed it, the device asked us to pay by mobile phone. In this case, there was a promo, and we had the bar code of a restaurant receipt scanned. The kiosk recognized the promo code and agreed that we didn’t have to pay any parking.

As we moved the car out of the parking lot, the camera must have scanned our plate number, and noting that our bill was settled, opened the barrier and let us out.

The job of the security attendant was just to wave and smile. He did not have to do anything, unless we hit the barrier. No paper. No card. No human intervention.

Indeed, this is a place where you can forget your wallet, but not your phone. It is your phone that buys and pays for everything.

Because running out of power is not acceptable, several internet startups have gone into business where in almost every hotel, restaurant, mall or train station, you can use your phone to pay for a charged battery bank and use it. Of course, it makes note of the special serial code of the battery and it will initially charge one yuan (about P8) for the first hour and in cents every hour thereafter. And you can return the battery bank to any location where they have chargers available that will automatically accept and note its return.


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