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WeChat issues official electronic Chinese identification cards

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China’s most popular, all-purpose app, WeChat, is poised to extend its reach even further into citizens’ lives. The South China Morning Post covers the news from Xinhua (in Chinese) on a pilot program that launched in Guangzhou on Monday to allow registered users in the city’s Nansha District to use a virtual ID issued by the app in place of the traditional government-issue hard-copy card.

  • After a pilot phase in Guangzhou, WeChat plans to roll out electronic IDs in the rest of Guangdong Province, and, ultimately, across the country.
  • Given WeChat’s estimated 980 million active users, the SCMP notes that “the program’s success would mark one of the most significant milestones for WeChat after it was initially rolled out by Tencent as a mobile messaging service in 2011.”

Meanwhile, regulators are increasingly concerned about how other entities are collecting and using consumer data.

  • In the absence of credit rating systems, China’s online cash lenders use a variety of personal information — such as contact lists and how fast a person types on their phone — to gauge creditworthiness. The New York Times reports (paywall) on the new problems this is causing.
  • The online lending companies harass friends, relatives, and employers of deadbeat borrowers.
  • “You start to gamble. Soon you get addicted to it,” says a university dropout profiled in the article.

—Sky Canaves


Sky Canaves

Sky Canaves previously reported for The Wall Street Journal in Beijing and Hong Kong, where she covered media, culture, social issues, and legal affairs, and served as the founding editor and lead writer of the WSJ’s China Real Time site. Prior to becoming a journalist, Sky worked in the China corporate law practice of Baker & McKenzie, and she has also taught journalism and media law at the University of Hong Kong. She speaks Mandarin and has accumulated more than a decade's experience living, studying and working in China.