On 4 July 2019, the North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence held a revolutionary speaker event on the new payment and integration technology of WeChat and the Chinese payment system AliPay. Specifically, the speaker Ralph Shale addressed some key discussion points from Chinese e-commerce and mobile payments, why it matters, consumer action and consumer preference, the ongoing revolution of Chinese technology and its connection to New Zealand.
He discussed the social normative culture of China to the extent that the government watches citizens through social media and internal platforms like WeChat, in which Shale made specific reference to a New York Times video and article known as “How China is chasing your Internet.” WeChat is specialised as it is a superapp with an integrated platform that includes banking, social media and internet, among other internet necessities. The system is a closed loop system, which is interesting as it saves consumers significantly. WeChat has considerable influence, as Shale argued: 902 million daily logins occur on the app, 32 billion messages are received daily on each of the platforms. WeChat is an example of new and innovative technology from China, where 40% of the world’s patents now originate. Retailers can market specifically through the app, provide coupons, reviews and create profiles, pages, accounts and specific tailored material to customers.
Shale discussed the importance of WeChat and AliPay’s significance to New Zealand and its economy, specifically targeting Chinese tourists. He demonstrated that there are considerable advantages for both retailers and customers for the pay platforms to be in New Zealand. AliPay is much cheaper for retailers than Visa and Mastercard, which poses the question as to whether we will become a cashless society through mobile payment platforms, especially as China is leading the technological revolution. Shale went in depth into the nuances of understanding how the payment system works and its uses in both the context of a communist, socialist country and New Zealand, a democracy, and the ethics that exist around this. Within New Zealand, the Christchurch airport is trialling the technology, as well as small and large scale businesses around the country, which helped as AliPay facilitated payments through 3rd parties to help retailers. Since this process was established, the transaction volumes in New Zealand have increased by 240% in relation to WeChat, AliPay and tourism. New Zealand is also ranked 2nd for the highest average of AliPay spending per person in Asia Pacific, behind the Philippines. The retailers benefit from lower costs, more exposure, a variety of payment options and a higher spend for Chinese tourists, as they are 90% more likely to shop at retailers that accept Chinese payments and to spend more if this is the case. This is further backed by the second issue addressed in the China International Travel Monitor report of 2017, which found that travelling to New Zealand was less desirable for many tourists due to a lack of Chinese payment options. Chinese consumer behaviours have conditioned residents of China to pay using mobile payment platforms whereas Kiwis prefer to pay using an EFTPOS system, hence why Shale was unsure as to which direction New Zealand would go next.
These payment systems are constantly evolving. AliPay now provides credit, which has shown up to a 60% increase in spending, a figure that continues to rise each month. With such significant evolutions, Shale demonstrated that Western apps are starting to imitate this technology, as Facebook has started to follow WeChat’s lead. This is important because Americans and other Westerners are heavily concerned as to the influence that the state and private equity has in tracking their movements, whereas people living in China have little concerns because of the extensive capacity that the government has to watch their citizens. WeChat also has significant powers from targeted marketing to monitor the concentration of Chinese app users, even while they are overseas.