What is Alipay and how does it work?
Banknotes seem destined to disappear in China: we’ve gotten to the point where even taxi drivers have begun refusing crumpled 10 Yuan bills at the end of a ride and shopkeepers raise their eyebrows as soon as you take out a 100 Yuan banknote because they don’t have enough change to give you the rest.
Practically everywhere in China you can pay with 支付宝（Zhīfùbǎo), better known in the West as Alipay.
Alipay is a virtual payment platform launched in 2004 by the Chinese private firm Alibaba Group(阿里巴巴集团, Ālǐbābā Jítuán), founded by Jack Ma in 1999 with headquarters in Hangzhou, in the Zhejiang region.
The holding Alibaba Group is made up of various companies that operate in the electronic commerce sector: one of the first “children” of this large company was the online shopping platform Taobao, later Alipay was created, which was born from the need to give Taobao users a safe and practical method for making payments on this platform.
Entrepreneur Jack Ma, the firm’s founder, was already placed in Time magazine’s 100 most influential men in the world, and is the second richest person in China as well as the thirty-ninth richest in the world. A few years after creating the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma described his company as “the crocodile of the Yangzi River”, a strong winner in China, but still too insecure to extend its success beyond its own waters into the vast ocean of the West.
Alipay is the company’s most popular payment service and by now has become an almost indispensable tool for anyone living in China, because it simplifies many of the chaotic aspects of living in a metropolis in this large country that is still growing economically.
It would seem that the “crocodile of the Yangzi River” is slowly coming out of its waters, arriving even as far as Europe. In Italy, for example, Alipay has literally “landed” at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport in April 2017 to allow its numerous Chinese passengers in transit to be able to use its practical applications to make their Duty Free purchases.
How does it work?
This is primarily a virtual payment platform that, protecting the consumer’s privacy, allows you to make safe payments online similar to PayPal.
Alipay already cooperates with 65 financial institutions, among which are Visa and Mastercard, so if you already have a credit card all you have to do is download the Alipay app on your cell phone and register in a few simple steps. However note that some of the fuctions only work if you use a Chinese credit (or debit) card.
Once you finish downloading the application, open it and proceed to the registration: you’ll first be asked to enter your cell phone number, later you’ll receive a message with a numeric code that you’ll have to enter in the app to continue with your registration.
The Alipay home page will open, so now you will have to add your credit card: access your profile by clicking on “Me” and then click on “Bank Cards” and proceed with the compilation or requested information, such as credit card number and your name and last name. Later Alipay will ask you to also enter a password to allow you to make payments with this application.