Leave your wallet at home, WeChat is now issuing ID cards

Guangzhou city is leading China’s much-needed bureaucracy revolution with the local government announcing that it will soon enable citizens to identify themselves through the country’s most widespread app—WeChat. Chinese citizens will be able to leave their identity cards at home and use their WeChat ID card for online and offline government services, hotel registration, delivery services, ticketing and other scenarios that require real name authentication.

The WeChat ID pilot program was launched yesterday in Guangzhou’s Nansha District, according to Xinhua (in Chinese). The service will be trialed in Guangdong and is set to roll out throughout the country from January next year. The project aims to prevent online identity forgery. The new WeChat ID card project is supported by the Ministry of Public Security’s Research Institute and other government bodies in cooperation with Tencent’s WeChat team.

Guangzhou has been experimenting with using WeChat in other public services. Guangzhou’s Intermediate People’s Court has launched its mini app on WeChat’s platform (in Chinese) to help citizens access relevant case information, filings and other information. In order to protect data and the privacy of parties involved, the mini app requires face and voice recognition.

WeChat’s ID card can be obtained in two ways. The “lightweight edition” is suitable for cases in which citizens just need to prove that they are who they say they, for instance when using Internet cafes. The “upgraded version” is meant to cover scenarios when stricter authentication is required such as business registration.

In the first version, users can search WeChat mini apps for the “Network certificate” (网证) app and scan their faces to receive their ID card. The second version will require logging into a secured terminal through the Weijing Authentication app (微警认证) developed by the Guangzhou’s Nansha District police. The app will automatically verify users’ information and the authenticity of their ID cards through its own AI system, local media has reported (in Chinese).