【英语中国】中国快速迈向“非现金支付” China falls out of love with cash

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-3-13 08:52

小艾摘要: China is rapidly ditching the centuries-old habit of paying its bills with trunkloads of cash, and making the shift to virtual forms of payment faster than any other country on earth.Figures released ...
China falls out of love with cash
China is rapidly ditching the centuries-old habit of paying its bills with trunkloads of cash, and making the shift to virtual forms of payment faster than any other country on earth.

Figures released by the People’s Bank of China show a sharp rise in the popularity of anything other than cash – from debit cards to credit cards to electronic wallet mobile apps. China has a staggering 4.2bn bank cards in circulation, enough for every mainlander to have at least three.

Ten times more of them are debit cards than credit cards (3.8bn compared with 391m), but credit card issuance also rose by 19 per cent in 2013, and Euromonitor predicts credit card usage will grow faster than that of other cards over the next five years. Overdue credit card debt – unpaid after six months – also leapt 72 per cent, but this is hardly US-style household debt: China’s overdue credit card debt is a mere 1.37 per cent of total credit outstanding.

The shift away from cash is remarkable for a country which was the first to print paper money a millennium ago: until recently, cash was so popular in China that even large purchases like cars or houses were paid for with bundles of banknotes bearing the portrait of Mao Zedong.

Very low rates of street crime make China, paradoxically, one of the safest countries for carrying around large wads of cash. And decades of deprivation coupled with an only rudimentary social safety net have left older Chinese with an almost pathological fear of debt – and a fondness for holding their wealth in their hands.

But despite all that, MasterCard found in a recent global study that China is making the shift “from cash to cashless” far more rapidly than any other country surveyed, largely as a result of rapid urbanisation and government policies designed to encourage non-cash payments.

And urban, affluent, internet-savvy Chinese consumers are even more wild about plastic. A recent Nielsen survey found that 71 per cent of shoppers in China’s top tier cities said they preferred bank cards over cash, compared with an average of half for other countries surveyed.

Zhang Yujia is at the forefront of the shift from paper to plastic. In fact, she is something of a credit card evangelist, having converted her reluctant parents to the use of a low-limit card that they initially did not want.

And she doesn’t stop at cards: over the recent lunar new year, she used Tencent’s social messaging platform WeChat to send traditional red envelopes full of virtual cash to her friends. Tencent says some 8m people sent Rmb400m ($65m) in electronic “hongbao” over the week-long holiday which ended in mid-February.

Mobile payment apps are surging in popularity as an easy way to pay for smaller items such as taxi rides and movie tickets. When dining with friends who want to “go Dutch”, Ms Zhang pulls out her electronic wallet app from Alibaba’s Alipay to transfer her share of the bill to the friend sitting next to her.

“Paper money stinks”, she says. Jason Chu, a Shanghai academic whose online alias is Big Bachelor, says he only carries Rmb100 with him at any one time: cash can be counterfeit and “carries bacteria and viruses”.

Wu Weiyi of AlixPartners in Shanghai, an advisory firm, says it’s not just about convenience or even the extra cash flow that comes with buying goods now that are only paid for later: companies issue cards to staff to control and monitor their cash flow.

But with many people signing up for cards to get the promotional gifts offered by banks, the number of active cards is much smaller than the total outstanding, he says. And in lower tier cities or among the less affluent, cash is still very popular: “Cash is more cost effective, vendors don’t have to pay fees for it, it can’t be so easily tracked and people use cash to avoid paying taxes.”

The meteoric rise of online retail in China is also a big factor, says Saurabh Sharma of Ogilvy & Mather in Beijing. “Credit card adoption has taken off in the past two to three years primarily due to the explosive growth in online retail,” he says, noting “customers in China buy almost anything online – including fresh vegetables”.

Zhang Yujia’s parents were tough converts to the credo of the credit card: “They weren’t accustomed to the concept of spending your money in the future,” she says.

But now she’s got them buying everything from milk to soy sauce and newspapers with plastic. “They use their credit card as much as I do,” she says. These days, it seems, everyone in China is rapidly being weaned off their wallets.

Additional reporting by Zhang Yan

中国正迅速摒弃几百年来扛着成箱现金付款的习惯,而且接受虚拟支付方式的速度快于世界上任何国家。

中国人民银行(PBoC)公布的数据显示,借记卡、信用卡和电子钱包移动应用等非现金支付工具的普及度均大幅上涨。流通中的银行卡达到惊人的42亿张,每个内地人平均至少拥有三张。

中国借记卡的数量(38亿张)是信用卡的近十倍(3.91亿张),但2013年信用卡发行量也增加了19%。欧睿(Euromonitor)预计,未来五年内,信用卡使用量的增速将快于其它任何卡种。逾期信用卡债务——即逾期六个月未偿还的信用卡欠款——剧增72%,但这与美国式的家庭负债不同:中国逾期信用卡债务仅占所有未偿还信贷余额的1.37%。

逐渐放弃现金,对于这个1000年前最先开始印制纸钞的国家意义重大:直到前不久,现金还在中国颇受欢迎,就连买车买房这样的大宗消费,也有人拿着大捆印有毛泽东头像的钞票付款。

说来矛盾的是,由于街头犯罪率很低,以随身携带大量现金而论,中国算是世界上最安全的国家之一。而几十年的穷困和不完善的社会保障,使得老一辈中国人对债务有着近乎病态的恐惧,也使得他们倾向于将财富持在手中。

但万事达(MasterCard)在近期的一项全球性调查中发现,中国从“现金到无现金”的转变速度远超其他任何受调查国家,这很大程度上是因为快速的城镇化,以及政府政策鼓励非现金付款。

中国熟悉互联网的城镇富裕消费者更是热衷使用银行卡。尼尔森(Nielsen)近期的一项调查显示,中国一线城市71%的购物者表示更喜欢使用银行卡而不是现金,而其他受调查国家平均而言只有50%。

张雨佳(音)是放弃纸钞、改用银行卡的先行者。事实上,她可谓是信用卡的布道者,说服了父母使用他们原本并不感冒的低额度银行卡。

她的尝试还不局限于信用卡:在最近的中国农历新年期间,她通过腾讯(Tencent)社交通讯平台微信(WeChat)向朋友发送了装有虚拟现金的“红包”。腾讯表示,在为期一周、于2月中旬结束的春节假期中,约800万人发送了4亿元人民币(6500万美元)的电子红包。

移动支付应用骤然走红,成为人们进行小额消费时(如打车、购买电影票)的便捷支付手段。如果与朋友“AA”吃饭,张雨佳会使用阿里巴巴(Alibaba)支付宝(Alipay)电子钱包,将自己应分担的餐费转账给一同就餐的朋友。

“纸币有铜臭味儿,”她说。网名“文冤阁大学士”的上海学者朱绩崧则表示,他不管什么时候身上只带着100元人民币现金:钞票有可能是假的,而且“携带细菌和病毒”。

咨询公司艾睿铂(AlixPartners)驻上海的吴唯一表示,先购物再付款的好处不仅是便利或能节省更多现金流,而且,企业向员工发卡,可以控制、监督现金流。

但他表示,许多人办卡是为了获得银行的促销奖励,因此活跃的银行卡数量远小于发行总数量。而在三四线城市和收入较低的人群,现金仍在普遍使用:“使用现金更划得来,商户无需为它付费,跟踪起来没那么容易,因此人们使用现金来避税。”

奥美(Ogilvy & Mather)驻北京的黎明(Saurabh Sharma)表示,在线购物在中国的迅速崛起也是银行卡普及的一大因素:“信用卡普及率在过去两三年内大增,主要原因是在线零售的爆炸式增长。”他指出,“中国消费者在网上几乎什么都买,包括新鲜蔬菜。”

张雨佳好不容易才让父母接受了信用卡的消费理念。她表示:“他们不习惯现在花未来钱的概念。”

但在张雨佳的影响下,不管是牛奶、酱油还是报纸,她的父母都用银行卡购买。她说:“他们使用信用卡的频率不比我少。”如今看来,中国似乎每个人都在迅速抛弃使用现金的习惯。

张嫣(Zhang Yan)补充报道

译者/徐天辰

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