The second largest economy in the world, China, is rapidly changing.
Recently two young men tried to rob a convenience store in China. They got in their disguises, gathered their weapons and drove in the middle of the night to a local convenience store. When they demanded the owner open the register – there was no cash there.
Because China is now increasingly relying on “手机支付 (shǒujī zhīfù)” mobile payments.
China is the second largest economy in the world, and it is leading every other country on earth in the mobile payments industry. China’s use of mobile payments was 50 times greater than the US in 2016 and is now a $5.5 trillion dollar industry. Now people are paying with their phones and store owners are collecting not cash, but QR codes.
Popular Mobile Payments
The most popular mobile payments in China are:
1. 微信支付 (wēixìn zhīfù) WeChat Pay
微信 (wēixìn) WeChat, is a social media (instant messaging, commerce and payment services) application developed by Tencent, who is now gaining a lot of momentum in the market.
2. 支付宝支付 (zhīfùbǎo zhīfù) Alipay
支付宝 (zhīfùbǎo) Alipay (a Web payment processing service founded by Alibaba Group, a Chinese e-commerce company who specializes in business-to-business trades). Alibaba launched in 2004, and is similar to Paypal in its services to facilitate payments.
支付 (zhīfù): pay (money); defray; payment.
These mobile payment methods are now available all throughout China—at restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores and convenience stores.
Yes, Even Starbucks!
Starbucks in China now accepts WeChat pay in its China stores.
Don’t Bring Your Wallet, Just Bring Your Phone!
“微信支付 (wēixìn zhīfù) WeChat Pay” and “支付宝支付 (zhīfùbǎo zhīfù) Alipay” are everywhere in China. Almost all stores now offer 微信支付 (wēixìn zhīfù) WeChat Pay” and ”支付宝支付 (zhīfùbǎo zhīfù) Alipay to customers.
My good Chinese friends always tells me: “We don’t need to bring our wallets anymore; we just take our phones!
A Chinese Internet Inside-Joke
They have also told me of an online joke that is circulating about the new mobile payment trend:
Often there are beggars on the streets of China. A common excuse for any passerby to refuse sparing some extra change is to say that they don’t carry any. The punchline, then, is: If the beggar simply asked for money via Wechat pay, no one would make that excuse anymore! Small payment amounts can now be exchanged through WeChat.
Ready to Practice?
A: Qǐngwèn wǒ kěyǐ wēixìn zhīfù ma? Wǒ zhīfùbǎo lǐ de qián búgòu le.
A： 请问 我 可以 微信 支付 吗？ 我 支付宝 里 的 钱 不够 了。
A: May I pay the bill through WeChat? I don’t have enough money in my Alipay wallet.
B: Kěyǐ, ni zhíjiē yong shouji sǎomiáo zhuō shàng de èrwéimǎ jiù xíng.
B： 可以, 你 直接 用 手机 扫描 桌 上 的 二维码 就 行！
B: Sure. You just need to scan the QR code on the table through your phone directly.
A: Hǎode, xièxie.
A: Fine, thank you!
1. Which of the following is NOT a Chinese Mobile Payment Method?
A. 微信支付 (wēixìn zhīfù) Wechat pay
B. 支付宝支付 (zhīfùbǎo zhīfù) Alipay
C. 贝宝 (bèibǎo) Paypal
—Written by Elizabeth Brown—
Elizabeth Brown works in China and has studied Chinese for 4 years. She has been a student at eChineseLearning for 2 years and is preparing to take the HSK 5. A special thanks to her Mandarin teacher Julie for helping her to write this article.