Alipay tests competing WeChat for mobile payment transfers

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BEIJING: After Ant Group’s Alipay launched a trial service allowing users of rival app WeChat to transfer funds using QR codes, the barrier separating China’s two major mobile payment systems has -began to weaken.

Although Beijing has called for the destruction of “walled gardens” run by major Chinese tech companies, direct money transfers between the two apps are still not possible.

However, Alipay’s new service, which is currently only available to a small number of users on a trial basis, represents a small step towards bringing together the two mutually exclusive payment services, which together serve as China Mobile Payments. accounted for more than 90% of the market.

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Alipay users create a QR code to complete the transaction after entering an amount of up to 2,000 yuan ($278) per transfer. The WeChat user receives the code, which he must scan with Alipay in order to receive the money.

The transfer actually uses WeChat, Tencent Holdings’ super app with over 1.2 billion monthly active users, for communication purposes, but does not use WeChat for payments.

Alibaba Group Holding’s fintech subsidiary Ant declined to comment on the new service. The South China Morning Post is owned by Alibaba.

The service, which was quietly launched in September, comes as both payment apps struggle to keep up with growth due to tighter regulations and a slowing domestic economy.

Meanwhile, China is developing new digital payment options, such as the e-CNY digital currency issued by the country’s central bank.

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The Chinese tech giant has long bolstered its ecosystem with barriers and impediments to access competing services. Alibaba used to exclude WeChat Pay from its app and online marketplace.

Several external competitors, such as Alibaba and ByteDance, owner of short video app Douyin and TikTok, have also been banned by Tencent from partnering with WeChat.

However, a six-month campaign to fix the problem was launched by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in July last year.

Since then, WeChat users can share links to competing apps while chatting face-to-face, a change seen as a response to Beijing’s demands. WeChat Pay is also a payment option for many Alibaba services.

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This includes food delivery platform Alame, video streaming platform Youku, online ticketing platform Damai, and cross-border e-commerce platform Kaola.

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Elaine R. Knight