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Hangzhou, capital of the southeastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, has newly become famous as a “mobile payment city” after a news report that sounded a little funny. On March 27, 2017, two robbers traveled to Hangzhou by plane and bus. After robbing three stores, they had stashed only two thousand yuan, less than the cost of the trip to Hangzhou. Many pointed out that residents of the city, which happens to host the headquarters of Alibaba, mostly pay with Alipay or WeChat. Cash is seldom used. QR codes for mobile payments can be seen everywhere from noodle restaurants to roast sweet potato stands.
To say that mobile payments are popular in the lakeside city would be an understatement. Every stand at the Songmu Farmers’ Market features a sign reading “Payment by Alipay Recommended” over a QR code. A QR code is pasted over a Chinese oven rolls shop near Zhejiang University in the city. Most customers pay by scanning the QR code with their smartphones. Next to the code is a small basin for cash, with just a few coins.
According to data from Ant Financial, citizens of Hangzhou can use smartphone apps to pay for 98 percent of taxis, at 95 percent of supermarkets and in over 50 percent of restaurants. Research conducted by the National School of Development of Peking University ranked Hangzhou first in inclusive finance from 2011 to 2015 among 337 Chinese cities. It tops Chinese cities in mobile payment proliferation, credit investigation, financial management, investment and insurance. Hangzhou has already become one of the most mobile paying cities in the world.
If you open the Alipay app and click “Smart Healthcare,” you’ll see the list of hospitals in Hangzhou. You can make an appointment, check the results of a physical examination, pay the clinic fee, and do many other things with your phone.
“In the past, many people waited all day and night to see a doctor,” admits Cai Xiujun, president of Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital. “Now, they can just rest and use their phones to set up appointments. The app will inform them of when and where they can see a doctor, get an ultrasound and buy medicine. They no longer have to rush to the hospital extremely early in the morning.”
Cai notes that the outpatient clinic sees about 8,000 visitors daily and is perpetually crowded with patients. To help alleviate the stress of heavy demand, Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital designed China’s first smart online hospital platform.