China preparing for the cashless society

More than 70% of Chinese internet users say carrying cash is no longer necessary, as they increasingly used handheld devices such as mobile phones and payment methods such as bar-code scanning, China UnionPay and online payments become increasingly popular.

The survey was published by Beijing Youth Daily, which interviewed Meng Tian, a researcher at Shanghai University, who predicts that cashless transactions will become China’s primary means of payment within five to 10 years.

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is already well advanced in China. Pan Helin, a post-doctoral student in economics at the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Science, said that the term “cashless world” has existed for 25 years and although no country has yet become a “cashless society” China is undergoing particularly rapid progress in this direction.

A cashless society does not mean that people have no cash, he added, but “has an economic mode where electronic payment is primal and the frequency of using cash by people is low.”

China has more than 700m internet users and around 60% regularly make payments via their mobile phones, with Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay the country’s two most popular platforms.

Alipay says that it can now be used to pay in more than 2m restaurants and supermarkets, 800,000 parking spaces and 20,000 filling stations. The use of Alipay also covers more than 2,000 bus terminals and will soon be added to more than 3,000 public hospitals. Using smartphones, China’s consumers can register at hospitals online and pay medical fees by scanning bar codes. In Beijing and other major cities, most small shops accept cashless payment methods.

Unlike North America and Europe, China’s route to becoming a cashless society will be based on mobile payments rather than credit cards, predicts Meng Tian, deputy director of the Institute of Technology and Finance at Shanghai University. Data issued last month showed that Chinese mobile payments were nearly 50 times greater than those in the US during 2016,

By the end of 2016, the average number of credit cards owned by Chinese citizens had decreased to 0.29 from 0.34 in 2014, according to data from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). The Payments and Clearing Association of China (PCAC) reports that a survey shows 47.5% of users like to use mobile payments, because they do not require cash or bank cards. Data from Nielsen show that 86% of Chinese consumers use mobile payments, well ahead of other countries worldwide.

The PCAC adds that 19.6% of mobile payment users live in small cities and towns; 19% are in provincial capitals; and 17% live in rural areas.

  • For more on the cashless society in Asia, click here.

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