A passenger pays for bus ticket by quick response (QR) code in Beibei District, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Aug. 3, 2017. Mobile payments started operation in some bus lines in Chongqing. Passengers can pay for bus tickets by scanning QR codes. (Xinhua/Qin Tingfu)
Alipay, or Zhifubao, is China's leading mobile and online payment service, established in 2004 by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. During the online transaction process, Alipay acts as a third-party platform, on which buyers pay for their goods by imputing payment passwords or scanning payment code on the Alipay app installed on their mobile devices.
Besides, Alipay can also be used for transferring money from one Alipay online account to another account, or from the online account to a bank account by binding a debit card to the online account. It is such convenience that enables China to edge its way towards being a cashless society.
On top of that, users can pay family or personal bills through Alipay, such as water and electricity bills.
Alipay also supports cross-border online and in-store payment, which allows users to make purchases on international websites and apps with Alipay.
In 2013, Alipay exceeded PayPal as the world's largest mobile payment platform. Thanks to the massive user base and various payment scenarios in China, online and mobile payment has enjoyed absolute advantages in market competition.
In the first quarter of 2017, the market share of Alipay and its major rivalry Tenpay (Wechat payment) reached respectively 54 percent and 40 percent, according to Chinese market research and consulting company iResearch.
With around 731 million Internet users, China has been the world's largest and fastest-growing e-commerce market. In 2016, online shopping in China saw a growth rate of 26.2 percent, generating 5.16 trillion yuan (767 billion dollars), according to a report on China's economic data by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Last year, Chinese people bought more food online with a growth of 28.5 percent. Clothing sales rose by 18.1 percent in the year, while items like mobile devices took up nearly 12 percent.
E-commerce now accounts for 15.5 percent of the total retail sales in the country. Thanks to lower costs and fewer licensing requirements, the bar for individual merchants to open an online shop in China has been set lower than the threshold for opening a physical retail store.
E-commerce has also injected fresh vigor and vitality into the economy of rural China in recent years. In 2016, e-commerce created more than 20 million jobs in rural villages, with over 8.1 million online business owners. Rural buyers also contributed 894 billion yuan (131 billion dollars) to China's e-commerce sales last year.
Leading operators in China's e-commerce market include JD.com, and Alibaba's Tmall and Taobao.