Simplified payments to facilitate foreign visitors

2024-03-09 08:25:05China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China has unveiled a guideline to improve payment services, which experts say underscores top policymakers' strengthened focus on addressing any payment difficulties facing international visitors as the country aims to boost inbound tourism and attract foreign investment.

Efforts in this regard are expected to accelerate and reap concrete advances this year, they said, with major Chinese payment platforms having quintupled the transaction cap for foreigners' mobile payments.

The General Office of the State Council, China's Cabinet, published a guideline on improving payment services and enhancing payment convenience on Thursday as part of the country's high-level opening-up agenda — a move to better meet the diversified payment needs of the elderly and foreign visitors.

The guideline, approved by the State Council Executive Meeting on Feb 23, called for coordinated efforts among authorities to promote the acceptance of foreign bank cards, guarantee the use of cash, improve mobile payment convenience, further protect consumers' rights to choose payment methods and optimize account services.

The move comes as China intensifies efforts to tackle payment difficulties faced by some foreign visitors who rely on bank cards or cash for transactions, whereas mobile payment habits predominate in China.

The People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, said that while mobile payments have played an important role in improving transaction efficiency, it is also necessary to improve the inclusiveness of payment services to cater to a broader range of consumers.

The guideline also called for efforts to make mobile payments more user-friendly for foreign visitors, with major payment platforms having stepped up efforts to simplify payment processes for tourists from afar.

Both Weixin Pay — a mobile payment service within the Weixin app designed for users on the Chinese mainland — and Alipay have raised the single transaction limit of mobile payments for foreigners in China from $1,000 to $5,000 and lifted the annual cumulative transaction limit from $10,000 to $50,000.

Tech giant Tencent Holdings is also working to facilitate foreign visitors making small-scale payments through Weixin Pay without the need to link to international bank cards.

Liu Chunsheng, an associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics' School of International Trade and Economics, said the guideline marks a significant step in China's efforts to create a more foreigner-friendly payment environment.

Efforts to improve foreigners' payment experiences in key scenarios, such as transport and dining, will help them better adapt to life and work in China, which is conducive to attracting more foreigners to China and promoting international economic exchanges, he said.

This year's Government Work Report, submitted on Tuesday for deliberation, has pledged efforts to make it easier for foreigners to work, study and travel in China.

Jin Li, vice-president of Southern University of Science and Technology and a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference — the country's top political advisory body — underscored the need to better inform potential overseas tourists to China about how to use mobile payment modalities in the country.

"Significant differences exist in payment habits between local Chinese residents and foreign visitors," Jin said. "Therefore, I suggest intensifying the promotion of Chinese mobile payments abroad, offering foreign tourists a better understanding of how to make payments in China in advance."

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