South East Asia

WeChat Tying In With China’s National ID Cards

Guangzhou — one of China’s largest cities — will be allowing residents to link their WeChat accounts to their national identity cards going forward.

The southern coastal city will be piloting the program in the Nansha district this week.  According to Financial Times reports, this provincial test drive is only a first step — the program is forecasted to go nationwide in China in the next month or so.

WeChat is a nearly ubiquitous social media platform in China that links chat, gaming, voice calling, cloud storage and eCommerce under a single corporate heading for consumers. Its mobile payments application — WeChat Pay — has also become a dominant force in Chinese commerce.

The firm’s stock price has also doubled in the last year, as the service now boasts 902m average daily logged-in users — it also briefly boasted a valuation higher than Facebook’s.

However, investors are also concerned about the platform — particularly that its income streams are not diverse enough.

“Tencent’s crisis is that its profit model is overly reliant on internet gaming,” said Zhang Yi, chief executive of iiMedia Research, a technology consultancy. “Expectations for Tencent are very high, but right now, its actual value isn’t as high as its stock price suggests.”

The tie-in with state-issued IDs, however, is an interesting move that could well offer a healthy revenue bump to the Chinese tech giant. The government-issued ID card in China is something of a multi-purpose commerce tool, usable to make reservations, check in at a hotel, access bank accounts and tap into social programs offered by the state.

The project being piloted this week in Nansha represents a collaboration between the public security bureau, Tencent, China Construction Bank and nine other unnamed institutions.

“This programme (sic) . . . further integrates [WeChat] into the daily life of ordinary people,” said Mr. Zhang.

And, as a not inconsiderable side benefit, the move could also prove to be a competitive advantage over their longtime rivals at eCommerce powerhouse Alibaba and its affiliate Alipay. Last year, Alibaba tested its own digital ID card system in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province.

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