China will roll out mobile payment facilities on all motorway toll stations around the country in 2019, a move that shows Beijing’s resolve in supporting digital payment methods in the world’s biggest cashless market.
Wu Chungeng, a spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Transport said at a media briefing in Beijing on Thursday that the government would provide drivers with access to mobile payment channels as a “supplement among various payment methods.”
So far, cashless payments are available to Chinese drivers in 14 cities and provinces around the country, including Shanghai, and the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu. The service is also being piloted in Beijing, Guangdong, and 12 other provinces.
Alibaba’s payment platform Alipay first launched its road toll payment system in Hangzhou, capital city of the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, in September 2016. Transactions initially took 15 seconds to complete, 25% faster than cash payments, according to Chinese media. That time has been further reduced to five seconds. In November, Alipay said its services were available on the highway networks of Shanghai, and Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.
Chinese citizens have embraced mobile payments en masse over the past few years, with users paying for almost everything by scanning QR codes. Alipay has more than 700 million users in China according to its latest financial results.
However, the increased adoption has also led to criticism highlighting the country’s reliance on digital payment channels, as consumers complain about vendors at times choosing to decline cash—a move the government has tried to outlaw.
In December 2018, a unit of China’s central bank censured Alibaba’s new retail supermarket Hema for rejecting cash payments, restating the renminbi is the country’s legal currency, and no business entity or individual can reject cash.