More than 900 people in the southwestern city of Nanning have obtained a smart ID card as part of a pilot for the new technology.
People have been able to apply for a digital version of their identity card since last week, when internet giant Tencent and the city's public security bureau announced a strategic partnership to accelerate digitization of urban management.
From next month, the smart ID card will be accepted for household registration applications, according to authorities in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. After that, the pilot could be expanded to include opening bank accounts, booking train tickets or applying for a driver's license.
The service is available through the bureau's smartphone app or its account on WeChat, Tencent's messaging app. Users need to send a photo of their ID card and a selfie for authentication, and in return they receive a QR code, which acts as their smart ID.
"To avoid fraudulent use of the QR code, the code is designed to change every 24 hours," according the head the public security bureau's technology department, surnamed Li.
Tencent has also assured that its facial recognition technology will keep users' personal data safe.
"It's pretty cool to have an ID like this," said Zhang Jie, a 23-year-old university student in the city. "Most people carry a phone with them all day. We can now pay through WeChat, so why not use it as an ID card."
Li said the digital service reduces the risk of residents losing their physical cards, which can be inconvenient.
"With just a quick scan, people can save a lot of time spent searching their pockets," he said.
"But their use still remains a challenge as there's no legal reference yet. It's expected to be first used for household registration, but in the not too distant future, it will no doubt expand to hotel check-ins and security checks."
The ID system is the tip of the iceberg of digital development in China.
The Nanning government has previously worked with WeChat on a wide range of other projects, including emergency and immigration services.
Tencent has also worked with the government in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to promote a smart driver's license and has said its ambition is to extend its Internet Plus services to 24 provinces and cities through strategic partnerships.