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China pledges further measures to make payment apps easier for foreigners to use as it looks to boost economy

China pledges further measures to make payment apps easier for foreigners to use as it looks to boost economy

China has pledged to make it easier for foreigners to use payment apps and to reduce barriers for the private sector as part of its latest efforts to restore investor confidence.

On Friday state news agency Xinhua reported that the State Council, China’s cabinet, had approved unspecified measures to make it easier for foreigners and elderly people to use payment services.

In recent years the use of cash has declined sharply in favour of payment apps, but a number of legal barriers – a result of the country’s strict and complex foreign exchange controls – have made them difficult, if not impossible, for foreigners to use, with major providers being shut out of the system.

These difficulties have been regularly cited by foreign business groups as a major factor in deterring visitors, with policy unpredictability and tighter national security checks also undermining China’s appeal to investors.

Cash payments for households could ease China’s deflation woes, analysts say

The change allowed overseas visitors without a Chinese bank account to pay with WeChat Pay and Alipay as locals would, including by registering with their real names. Alipay is owned by Ant Group, an affiliate of the South China Morning Post’s owner Alibaba.

“We will continue to follow up and analyse the feedback from foreign users, and continue to optimise the product experience, so as to enhance the convenience of foreign users using mobile payments in China”, said a representative for WeChat Pay.

The Chinese authorities have made it a priority to restore confidence in the private sector and among foreign investors as part of the effort to boost the economic recovery.

Friday’s statement from the State Council said: “Foreign investment is an important force for the development and prosperity of China’s and global economy. Stabilising foreign investment should be a focus of this year’s economic work.”

It also pledged to widen market access, further level the playing field and help boost innovations to “consolidate the confidence of foreign investors in developing in China”.

On Sunday, China’s top prosecutors’ office also launched a 10-month campaign to improve the legal environment for private companies.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said the measures would include a crackdown on corruption and crimes that undermine fair competition, better protection for property rights, greater discretion in the prosecution of business leaders and moves to tackle shell companies used for illegal activities such as fraud or tax evasion.

Premier Li Qiang will unveil the country’s annual growth targets at next month’s legislative meeting, where the main policy measures are expected to include moves to tackle deflationary risks, stabilise the property market and boost market sentiment.

Stagnant market has some Chinese developers shirking payments to contractors

Fixed-asset investment by the private sector contracted year on year by 0.4 per cent in 2023, in sharp contrast with a rise of 6.4 per cent by the state-sector investments, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics last month.

Foreign investors have turned to other markets in the past year, pushing the country’s annual net receipt of foreign direct investment (FDI) to a 30-year low in 2023, according to official figures.

The Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that China attracted 112.7 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) in FDI in January, down 11.7 per cent year on year.

The article was first published here

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