International

China’s Massive Red Envelope Mobile Scheme

While Westerners celebrated the New Year in early January and are now a month and a half in to failing to live up to their various resolutions, the Chinese are just getting started.

Last night kicked off Chinese New Year, meaning across the planet’s most populous nations people gathered to eat large meals, visit with family, watch the fireworks and give each other red envelopes stuffed with cash. While the first three are ubiquitous parts of a New Year celebration anywhere on Earth, the red envelopes stuffed with money are a distinctly Chinese twist on ringing in  a new year.

And it is an ancient tradition that is undergoing an modern update, as that red envelope gift giving is moving increasingly onto mobile.

Users of the Alipay Wallet app sent a grand $642 million to friends and family during the 24-hour period of Chinese New Year’s Eve, according to data released by parent company Alibaba.  Tencent, owner of the WeChat app, did not disclose how much money was sent, but did note that over a billion (1.01 billion to be exact) virtual red envelopes flew across the wires on it service.

And as it turns out, even Alibaba head Jack Ma got in on the red envelope fun. Ma handed out 999,999 red envelopes to random users.

But not to their employees – as Jack Ma didn’t give out Chinese New Year bonuses .  Ma indicated in a blog post that the “reason for not distributing red envelopes is that in the past year, Alibaba Group has not had exceptional results and not had any special surprises.”

Apparently being the largest IPO in history doesn’t count toward specialness.  Ma instead cautioned his employees to ““not let ourselves be lost in illusory fame.”

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