Beijing Diary: How Cashless Payments Are Transforming The Chinese Society

Bernama's correspondent in Beijing Samantha Tan Chiew Ting shares her take on life in China's capital city.

Beijing Diary by Samantha Tan Chiew Ting

BEIJING (Bernama) -- With her feeble fingers pressing softly on the touch screen, 80 year-old Li Huiying attempts to complete an online transaction.

Li of Beijing, China are among the millions Chinese, young and old, who stand testament to how cashless transactions are transforming people's lives.

Whether its shopping, banking or business, it can be conducted cashless with the touch of buttons on the screen.

This octogenerian caught my attention while I was doing some transaction at a bank here recently. She appeared friendly and in no time I struck a conversation with her.

Obviously my first question was whether the cashless transactions made life easier for an elderly person like her?

Li with a grin in her face replied; "It's hard to get the buttons right. Each time I try I get so worried whether the money will go through or not.

"Those days we had to hold the money in hand, keep under the pillow...now is all about cards and pressing numbers. Paying something without involving cash at times drives me crazy".

The octogenerian said her children had taught her to do online transaction to pay utility bills, however she still preferrred to do it manually over the counter at the banks though she haS to wait for hours in a long queue.

THE MAGIC OF ONLINE EXPERIENCE

Online experience has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers, especially the booming middle-class population as well as lower-tier and rural population across China.

In Beijing, everything is moving fast from people to business. The speed people walk, talk, move using public transportation or drive on the road, shop in the supermarkets, indicates that every second is precious to them.

For the tech-savvy Gen Y, technology seems to be embedded in them. No matter how fast the technology changes, they manage to keep up.

For Maple Wu, 28, going online is a compulsory activity.

"Everyday no matter where and when I will go online via mobile to chat, to browse, to shop as well as to know friends," she said.

She told me that she would spend an hour daily on shopping websites to catch good deals, adding many of the products were much cheaper compared with the traditional shops.

HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR ONLINE TRANSACTIONS

There are various online shopping channels to cater the changing trend and growing demand particulary among the youth generation. Among the top are Taobao, operated by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba and also TMall.com, a comprehensive e-commerce marketplace also run by Alibaba.

Recently, Alibaba Group launched its annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival showing the world the consumption potential of China and future opportunities for small and medium enterprises across the globe.

The 24-hour online shopping event on Nov 11 generated US$14.3 billion (91.2 billion yuan) of gross merchandise volume (GMV) settled through Alipay, a 60 percent increase from last year's US$9.3 billion (RM39 billion).

These channels offer thousands of products and services as well as brands from food and beverages, electronic goods, furniture, and apparel to automotives.

Complemented by a reliable delivery service, these online channels allow more people to shop without the need to go out.

However, many of the online shoppers may not know of the rules and regulations pertaining to online purchases, and the rights and means of payment.

RISING ONLINE TRANSACTIONS CORRELATES WITH RISING DISPUTES

According to China Daily.com, the number of complaints and disputes related to online shopping had increased sharply.

There is also rising concern that the online shopping landscape is fast becoming a breeding ground for counterfeits.

A report by a law enforcement team under the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress pointed out the Chinese industrial and commercial authorities dealt with 78,000 complaints concerning online shopping, up 356.6 percent year-on-year in 2014.

Of the total, 20,135 cases taken on by consumer associations with 92.3 percent concerning online purchases.

I too have experienced the ease and allure of online shopping. While it's wonderful to receive parcels of your online purchase but it could also be be stressful if you get something that is not within your expectation.

Whether cashless transaction posed advantage or disadvantage, it is crucial for the people to understand their rights and needs before proceeding to the virtual realm to shop.

-- BERNAMA