WeChat Adds Digital Yuan Payment Functionality

WeChat, China’s leading social networking and payment app, has now integrated the country’s central bank digital currency, the digital yuan, into its payment services, according to local reports. This move comes after Alipay, another leading payment platform, added the same functionality to its platform in December 2022. WeChat’s addition of the digital yuan fast payment function allows users to make payments on certain mini-programs and platforms that support the digital yuan.

The pilot version of the digital yuan application’s “Wallet Quick Payment Management” page currently lists 94 platforms, now including WeChat, that can be accessed. The integration enables WeChat Pay to allow digital yuan payments on certain apps, such as McDonald’s food orders and bill payments. However, users need to authorize the digital yuan wallet operator to sync their WeChat-bound mobile phone number to activate the fast payment function successfully.

According to Linghao Bao, an analyst at Trivium China, a strategic advisory firm, “Chinese consumers are so locked in WeChat Pay and Alipay, it’s not realistic to convince them to switch to a new mobile payment app. So it makes sense for the central bank to team up with WeChat Pay and Alipay as opposed to doing it on its own.”

The digital yuan, also known as the e-CNY, is being piloted in at least 26 Chinese provinces and cities. The token saw an increase in transaction volumes on Chinese e-commerce platforms during the 2023 Lunar New Year shopping season, helped by e-CNY handouts from authorities.

Alipay had announced its access to the digital yuan acceptance network in December 2022, enabling users to spend digital yuan consumption on platforms served by Alipay, including Taobao, Shanghai Bus, Ele.me, Youbao, Tmall Supermarket, and Hema.

As the digital yuan’s integration with leading payment platforms like WeChat and Alipay grows, it is expected to become more widely adopted in China, potentially challenging existing payment methods like cash and cards. The central bank’s collaboration with these platforms is likely to help broaden the appeal of the digital yuan among Chinese consumers who are already comfortable with these apps.


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Chinese banks tell staff to recruit up to 300 new digital yuan users each

Chinese banks have begun a hard sell of digital yuan wallets, asking staff to recruit hundreds of new users each year.

According to a translation of a June 6 article from Shenlian Caijing, employees of top banks such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Bank of Communications, along with four other state-owned banks, have been instructed to promote digital yuan wallets to an average of 200 to 300 people a year.

To entice new users, employees are able to offer an odd variety of small gifts, such as “laundry detergent, data cables, card holders, Chinese knots, umbrellas, and tissues.”

The banks have included the task of promoting the central bank digital currency (CBDC) on employee evaluations, with the number of CBDC wallet recruits determining each branch’s end of year bonuses.

Essentially the banks have deployed an incentive scheme focused on mass recruitment of wallet users, and will reward branches and their employees with favorable performance reviews and monetary bonuses.

From the Chinese government’s perspective, the ramp-up in digital yuan wallet adoption is part of a move to get a stronger hold over the financial tech market, as it will be in competition with payment service providers such as Alipay and WeChat, who reportedly account for 98% of the mobile payment market in China.

Cointelegraph reported on April 26 that in the lead-up to an online shipping festival on May 5, six of China’s largest banks promoted the CBDC as a better alternative to Alipay and WeChat.

Related: From mining to software: China’s regulatory crackdown on crypto continues

As part of China’s ongoing testing of the CBDC, the local government of Chengdu, located in the Sichuan province, announced on June 2 that it is issuing 12 million digital yuan ($1.85 million) via a lottery to 100,000 residents.

The theme of the lottery is dubbed “Green Travel – low carbon summer” and interestingly, the 12 million digital yuan is pre-programmed to work specifically for public transportation payments, such as bus and subway tickets, along with shared bike rental payments.