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Cashless trend

Experts agree that it is becoming a growing trend that more and more consumers across the country are using cashless payment methods.

In fact, as early as 1988, the State Council, the country`s cabinet, released regulations to encourage bank transfers and to reduce using cash during economic activities.

Today, the move toward a cashless society could "reduce the risks of using cash, save on costs and as a matter of convenience, prevent illegal activities such as money laundering," Dong Ximiao, a research fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

The rapid development of third-party mobile payment tools, to some extent, is helping to boost cashless payments across the country, said Dong.

Transactions involving third-party mobile payments rose 46.8 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the previous quarter to 18.8 trillion yuan, according to a report Beijing-based research consultancy Analysys released in May.

There were 3.4 billion third-party payment accounts in total in China in 2016, a Goldman Sachs report showed.

But China is not the first country to seek a cashless society. Developed states like Sweden, Denmark and Singapore are also witnessing cashless payment methods proliferate.


Disputes and criticisms

The rapid development of cashless payments does not mean there are no challenges and criticisms.

Alibaba`s Hema store, where customers can shop, dine and order commodities for delivery from their mobile phones via Alipay, have come into the spotlight recently. Media reports alleged that consumers can`t purchase goods with cash there, which would be considered illegal.

A Hema PR representative told the Global Times that all 13 Hema stores in the country do in fact allow consumers to pay in cash. She noted that Hema store simply recommend consumers to pay via Alipay for convenience purposes.
一位“盒马鲜生”的公关代表在接受《环球时报》采访时表示,事实上,国内“盒马鲜生” 全部13家超市都允许顾客现金支付。她指出,“盒马鲜生”仅仅出于方便的考虑,推荐顾客使用支付宝支付。

Alipay and WeChat Pay, the nation`s two major third-party mobile payment tools, also launched campaigns this month to encourage more merchants and customers to use cashless payment methods.

Within the campaigns, both called for the establishment of a "cashless society", which provoked concerns over whether cash will soon disappear.

"[Some] offline sellers refuse to accept cash, which impacts the natural circulation of yuan," said Dong.

Dong emphasized that a cashless society would not mean that cash would completely disappear. As the economy grows, the circulation of cash is still very huge, noted Dong.

Also, it`s important to remember that nearly half of China`s population lives in rural areas, especially in undeveloped western regions, and therefore is not able to enjoy innovation brought by the Internet, Dong said.

And when it comes to China`s senior citizens, most of them prefer to use cash in their daily lives, he added.

Tolerant stance

However, some experts show a tolerant stance toward mobile payments.

"Mobile payments drive financial innovation and help to build a cost-effective society," Wang Pengbo, a finance industry analyst at Analysys, told the Global Times.

He believes that it`s "ridiculous" to question digital payment tools` contribution toward financial development. He said that people should be more tolerant toward emerging mobile payment platforms.

"Under [applicable] regulations and laws, the country should continue to encourage the development of mobile payments," advised Wang.

In the long term, various payment methods will be used by consumers, predicted Dong. "[Ultimately], merchants should respect consumers` payment habits," Dong noted.


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