Posted 2018-05-06

By Slava Godkin*

Imagine yourself this scene – You’re having some troubles with your toilet and you have no choice but to call the plumber. The plumber arrives and fixes the problem. You examine his work and it seems that you’re satisfied: Time to pay the bill. The plumber tells you it’s just 35$ because he’s feeling happy that day and he likes you. “No problem”, you say as you reach for your wallet. Suddenly, you realize that you forgot to withdraw money – DAMN! that always happens.

Well, if you’re in China it’s not a big deal!

You see, this kind of situation happened to me here in China, and the plumber’s response was “no worries man, just send me the money via WeChat Wallet”. That situation got me to realize something – China truly is an E-commerce superpower, a place where even the simplest daily things become an E-commerce transaction. After all, when was the last time you paid your plumber, hairdresser or vegetable seller via PayPal? In China, that’s the norm.

That’s truly a surprising fact when thinking of a country like China, which is still, even if only officially, Communist. The Chinese economy is skyrocketing for years. China surely wasn’t the pioneer in the E-wallet market, but it absolutely is the one who took it to a whole new level.

Basically, there are two dominant E-wallets and several smaller providers. The most well-known providers are “WeChat Wallet” and “Alipay”. “WeChat Wallet” is basically a feature of an app called “WeChat”. This app, some would argue, is the Chinese substitute for Facebook and WhatsApp combined. “WeChat Wallet” allows you to send money to your WeChat “friends”, who of course can be your plumber or whoever you’d like to do business with. Pretty handy huh?!
But you don’t always have to add all mainland China to your friends list, many shops and businesses have a QR code stand on the cashier table that allows you to scan it and make your payment. WeChat also allows you to book flights, call a taxi, book hotels and even “Go Dutch” when you’re going to a restaurant with your friends and decide to split the bill! It doesn’t stop there. Many other handier and less handy features will wait for you on “WeChat Wallet”.

Alipay (run by Alibaba) is basically the Chinese version of the worldwide PayPal. Like PayPal, it allows making online secured purchases and can also be used as an E-wallet. Alipay is even more used than WeChat Pay but basically, there is no significant difference between them. However, while WeChat is more like a social network wallet, Alipay has more financial, bank-like features. For example, Alipay allows having a savings plan and earn interest on your money with no commission and no minimum amount.

Although it seems like Alipay is more secure and somehow more “professional” than WeChat Wallet, most people still prefer to use WeChat’s paying service, probably due to WeChat popularity with more than a billion users worldwide.

The change to digital mobile payment seems drastic but take into consideration that money has been present ever since the dawn of civilization and changed its form and system constantly throughout history. From the days of barter to modern credit-based economy, every time people needed to make a change, it made them feel anxious, and took some time until they got used to it (just ask your parents how they felt when they used a card to withdraw money for the first time, instead of the familiar bank teller). The E-wallet is a relatively new thing. And in China, people are more than ready for it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to take a part in tomorrow’s economy – today.

Slava is an entrepreneur that has been living in China for the past two years. These days he has been working on a new project that might change the world of import! Stay tuned…

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