You are out of date if you still using cash in China
Almost everyone in major mainland Chinese cities is using a smartphone to pay for just about everything. At restaurants, a waiter will ask if you want to use WeChat or Alipay — the two smartphone payment options — before bringing up cash as a third, remote possibility.
Just as startling is how quickly the transition has happened. Only three years ago there would be no question at all, because everyone was still using cash.
“From a tech standpoint, this is probably one of the single most important innovations that has happened first in China, and at the moment it’s only in China,” said Richard Lim, managing director of venture capital firm GSR Ventures.
There are certain parts of the Chinese internet that have to be seen to be believed. Coming from outside the country, it’s hard to comprehend that Facebook or Google can be completely blocked until you are forced to do without them. It’s tough to fathom how CRItical the messenger app WeChat is for everyday life until the sixth person of the day asks to scan your QR code — a sort of bar code — to connect the two of you.
At coffee shops and restaurants, I held up lines as I fumbled out my wallet and peeled off the bills to give the cashier. If I was hungry I had to go outside and find a restaurant, while bowls of noodles, groceries and coffee materialized at our office, ordered by my colleagues and paid for on the phone. If I had to get somewhere, I couldn’t use my phone to unlock one of the ubiquitous bicycles that are a part of China’s bike-sharing craze.
Even the buskers were apparently ahead of me. Enterprising musicians playing on the streets of a number of Chinese cities have put up boards with QR codes so that passers-by can simply transfer them tips directly.
“It has become the default way of life now,” said Shiv Putcha, an analyst with the research firm IDC.