Alipay Provides Digital Yuan Boost as COVID-19 Deals PBoC Blow

Source: Adobe/ltyuan

The e-payments giant Alipay, part of the Alibaba business empire, has added an advanced search function for users wishing to use its platform to make payments using the digital yuan within the fast-expanding pilot zone.

The e-pay platform had previously added digital CNY pay options late last year, with its biggest rival – the Tencent-operated WeChat Pay – following suit earlier this year. WeChat Pay and Alipay have now both added buttons that direct users to digital yuan wallets, rather than requiring them to search through cluttered menus in a bid to find the payment option.

The Alipay interface update also allows users to create accounts using the same phone number they have registered with the e-pay platform – and pay for goods or services using the digital CNY without leaving the app.

The Alipay digital yuan button prompts new users to rapidly set up accounts in the token via its MYBank neobank, the China News Network reported.

Alipay users can also use QR codes from other devices to go directly to a MYBank digital yuan account opening page.

The Ant Group, the offshoot of the Alibaba empire that operates Alipay, has also claimed that it has “pushed” some 6 million wallets onto merchants allowing them to accept digital CNY payments faster and more effectively.

Alipay and WeChat Pay represent 15% of the payments market in China, and the vast majority of young, urban Chinese citizens have made use of the e-pay platforms. Some critics have accused the central People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of attempting to muscle into this picture and effectively render Alipay and WeChat Pay redundant with the digital fiat and its own e-CNY app.

But the PBoC has refuted such claims, arguing that the private-sector e-pay platforms are “wallets,” while the e-CNY is one of the possible “contents of a wallet.”

However, it has not all been good news for the PBoC and its new token this week. Chinese state media outlets reported that the government has agreed a deal with sporting authorities to delay the 2022 Asia Games until 2023. Beijing had hoped to welcome international visitors en masse for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, following the example of the Winter Olympic Games from earlier this year, Beijing had hoped to use the games as another international showcase for its token.

In fact, the pilot area had been specially expanded in preparation for the games. But China’s “zero-COVID” policy has forced a rethink, with mass lockdowns now in place in many parts of the country – rendering the games a logistical impossibility.