Canton Fair facilitates, improves payment options for foreign attendees

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

“I was informed of several ways to change money by staffers at the airport. They also taught me how to make mobile payments through Alipay. I can’t wait to experience digital payments,” Sophie, a first-time Canton Fair purchaser from Germany, told the Global Times on Sunday at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in South China’s Guangdong Province.

Sophie is among foreign arrivals to the 135th session of the China Import and Export Fair, commonly known as the Canton Fair, which is being held from Monday to May 5, who will enjoy improved payment services during their stay in Guangzhou. Improving payment services is part of China’s opening-up to welcome foreign guests.

Liu Qing, a senior manager of the Personal Digital Finance Department at the Bank of China (Guangdong Branch), told the Global Times during a group interview that the bank has placed more than 120 point-of-sale (POS) terminals that accept foreign bank cards in the venues of the Canton Fair.

“We focus on providing more convenient foreign currency exchange services, covering all branches in Guangdong. We also provide self-service exchange machines in the province. A total of 46 foreign currency exchange points have been set up in hotels, ports, exhibition halls and other places where foreigners often visit when coming to Guangdong,” said Liu.

In order to facilitate digital payments for foreign visitors to the Canton Fair, Alipay, a major mobile payment platform in China, launched an “International Visitors Service Zone,” a multi-function platform designed for foreigners in Guangdong. 

It functions under the mini program “OneStop” with 16 languages provided.

The zone provides more than 30 digital application services in English, including purchasing local phone cards, taxi booking, hotel booking, car and ship ticket booking, takeout and express delivery, the Global Times learned from the Canton Fair organizer.

The biannual Canton Fair welcomes hundreds of thousands of overseas exhibitors and purchasers. As of Saturday, more than 144,000 purchasers from 215 countries and regions had completed registration for the event, the Global Times learned from the organizer.

Guangdong is an important destination for foreigners coming to China, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, said on April 1 when holding meetings on optimizing payment services in Guangdong’s Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The PBC asked relevant departments to cooperate to increase POS terminals that accept foreign bank cards and ATMs that allow withdrawals with foreign cards.

China is improving the payment experience, especially for digital payments, for foreigners traveling or doing business in the country.

The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has been making efforts with relevant departments and has released the “Guide to Working and Living in China as Business Expatriates” to help cross-border business personnel exchanges so that the world can share China’s vast market, an official from the MOFCOM said on March 27 during a press conference.

As mobile payments cover all aspects of life in China, including food and transportation, providing payment convenience for foreign nationals in China is a major undertaking, the MOFCOM official said.

On March 7, China released a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners and the elderly, calling for coordinated efforts by various authorities to promote the acceptance of foreign bank cards, guarantee the use of cash, improve mobile payment convenience, and further protect consumer rights while choosing payment methods and optimizing account services.

Shanghai, Beijing, other cities improve foreigners’ payment service

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have stepped up efforts to improve means of payment for foreign travelers, a move to promote inbound tourism and high-level opening-up. 

Shanghai, frequently picked up by overseas visitors as their first stop to China for business, study or sightseeing, will optimize payment service linked with bank cards, promote the use of cash and facilitate mobile payment to meet the diverse preferences of foreigners, Hua Yuan, vice mayor of Shanghai, told a press conference on Thursday.

“We have improved the cross-border payment functions of UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate mobile payments on the side of Chinese merchants. UnionPay can support users of more than 180 overseas wallets to make payments, and Alipay can support e-wallets from 10 countries and regions to make payments in China, Hua said.

In terms of bank cards, the city has newly opened more than 37,000 foreign card point-of-sale (POS) terminals, covering sites of commerce, culture and tourism, and airports. 

The total number of foreign bank card POS swipes, and the per customer transaction value in Shanghai are both leading other cities in the Chinese mainland, said Hua.

Shanghai also has a large number of yuan cash withdrawal or exchange outlets, including more than 8,000 automatic teller machines (ATMs), over 3,500 Chinese bank outlets, and 183 foreign currency exchange outlets.

Hua said that Shanghai will promote the full coverage of foreign card withdrawals of yuan cash from ATMs stationed in the city.

On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government released an action plan to optimize its payment services. 

The capital city will continue to improve the user-friendly level and convenience of payments such as mobile payments, bank cards and cash. As of the end of December, the city will have basically solved the payment difficulties of elderly people, foreigners coming to Beijing and other groups.

“In Shanghai, everything can be paid for by using a QR code – this is very different from my home. It’s super convenient,” an Australian tourist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

“It makes Shanghai feel much more international and connected. It also helps in keeping track of how much you spend – which is great for a shopaholic like me,” the tourist said.

Alejandra Clemente Romagnoli, a tourist from Mexico who has visited Shanghai, told the Global Times that she usually uses Alipay or WeChat Pay, and the accounts are associated with her Chinese bank cards. 

“It is very easy to use mobile payments. Just take your cellphone and go out. In Mexico, I had to carry cash and a bank card,” she said.

The two cities’ moves came after China released on March 7 a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners, which experts said is conducive to boosting domestic consumption while demonstrating the country’s commitment to high-level opening-up.

“By installing new foreign card POS machines and promoting the facilitation of payments, these cities have provided a more convenient and efficient payment environment for foreign tourists,” Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“These measures have also promoted consumption and expanded domestic demand, further boosting China’s economic growth,” Wang said.

Wang added that a convenient and efficient payment environment can reduce the transaction costs of enterprises and improve the efficiency of capital utilization, enhancing competitiveness.

By promoting payment facilitation, China can enhance its attractiveness in the international investment market and attract more foreign investment, he said.