China’s mobile payment market was worth $15.5 trillion last year

Hundreds of millions of people sent and received money online to friends and relatives over the lunar new year festival, as technology continues to permeate even the most ancient of traditions in China. Tencent, a Chinese technology group with an equity value greater than Facebook’s, said 768 million people sent and received hongbao, the red packets stuffed with cash, over Weixin Pay, its third-party payments business, during the six-day holiday period. Typically people will hand out scores or even hundreds of hongbao: according to Tencent, one person sent 2,723 while another received 3,429. The mass migration to digital hongbao — initiated four years ago by Tencent — highlights the explosion of making payments with the swipe of a phone in China… China’s third-party mobile payment market was worth an estimated $15.5 trillion last year, dwarfing those in the US and other countries… Rival Alibaba has also got into the act. This year Ant Financial, its payments affiliate, said more than 250 million users collected all the “five fortune cards” in its New Year’s Eve promotion… It is all a far cry from a tradition that dates back, depending which version you believe, more than 12 centuries. There are conflicting accounts of the legend that launched the tradition — the birth of an emperor’s son in the eighth century or when the Eight Immortals morphed themselves into coins to protect a child from the demon.
Louise Lucas