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Digital payments: One QR code to rule them all? – China’s latest business and technology news


China has not left cash behind completely, although its popularity as a payment method has fallen sharply since 2016,” is one conclusion of a report (paywall) by the Financial Times based on a survey of 1,000 urban Chinese people. The report sees Alibaba as the real winner in the fight over consumers’ digital wallets, calling China’s online payments market a “duopoly of one.”

The FT survey found that:

  • 82.6 percent use Alibaba’s Alipay as one of their three main payment methods.
  • 64.3 percent use Tencent’s WeChat Pay.
  • 6.6 percent use UnionPay QuickPass, a digital payment service owned by the state-run debit and credit card network card payment system.
  • 3.2 percent use Apple Pay.

In an article about UnionPay’s struggles to defend its market share against new digital payment services, Caixin cites similar but slightly different numbers:

  • Payments by smartphone and QR code “grew 113% from the same period a year ago to 2.27 billion yuan ($337 million).”
  • Tencent and Alibaba combined have 94 percent of the market.

A different report (paywall) in Caixin says that MasterCard “plans to roll out its QR-code-based service across Asia more aggressively in coming years,” as “people no longer bring wallets, and businesses and consumers are getting more used to doing business with smartphones by scanning QR codes.”


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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.