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China’s Digital Wallets Offer a Glimpse at the Future of Payments

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Chinese consumers conduct 11 times more mobile payments than their counterparts in the United States, so as we look to the future of digital wallets, China is a natural place to start.

Mobile Payments USA vs. China

Forecasts for mobile payment adoption in the United States remain flat for now; however, two major brands – WeChat and AliPay – offer a glimpse of what the future may eventually hold for mobile payments in North America.

Digging Through WeChat’s Wallet

WeChat, a platform owned by Tencent, is a force to be reckoned with. It’s fast closing in on one billion monthly active users (MAUs), and the average user spends over an hour on the app each day.

WeChat users aren’t just unusually chatty – there’s actually a high level of utility to the platform that North American apps have yet to match. WeChat’s wallet alone is packed with features ranging from mobile payments to ride hailing. Below is a look at just some of the features.

WeChat Overview

WeChat’s wallet is packed with features that are constantly evolving, but here are some current features worth noting:

Payments in the real world
“Scan-and-pay” is widely popular in China, particularly in big cities where it’s hard to find a product or a service that cannot be purchased with a mobile device. According to China Channel, over 90% of Chinese consumers have adopted WeChat as a method of payment in offline purchases. That compares with a 32% adoption rate for debit and credit cards.

Red Packets
WeChat has seen tremendous growth of its wallet by capitalizing on China’s tradition of gifting cash-filled red envelopes (known as hongbao). In fact, the volume of digital red packets sent has skyrocketed from 16 million to 14.2 billion in only three years.

Digital red packets

Digital Tip Jar
WeChat also offers a glimpse at a new avenue for content creators to monetize their hard work online. WeChat’s Tip Jar feature allows users to send micro-payments to writers, musicians, artists, and more.

Go Dutch
Splitting the bill in a busy restaurant or pub setting can be major hassle. “Go Dutch” is a feature that allows WeChat users to divvy up a bill and pay using the app. Features like Go Dutch make digital payments an appealing option because they solve a real world problem.

Third-Party Apps
WeChat has robust third-party integration within its wallet. Functionality is so deep that users can order anything from transportation to home cleaning services with the push of a button. China’s largest e-commerce, group buy, and ride hailing companies are already on these platforms, but Western brands like Starbucks are getting in on the action too.

Going Head-To-Head

The mobile payments sector is becoming increasingly binary as WeChat and AliPay dogfight for market share. AliPay – Ant Financial’s payment brand – was once the undisputed leader in mobile payments, but the company has recently seen its market share eroded by an increasingly scrappy WeChat. WeChat has smartly leveraged its popularity and massive user base to get people using it as a payment tool as well.

Market share of digital wallets

ApplePay, which had high hopes for the Chinese market, continues to lag far behind domestic brands.

Growing Pains for Digital Wallets

China’s central bank recently imposed tougher rules regarding scan-and-go payments, a move that Ant Financial and Tencent are publicly praising, but that may dampen the meteoric growth trajectory of mobile payments. The new regulations take aim at aggressive tactics used to capture market share from competitors, and set limits on how much consumers can spend daily using barcode-based payments.

Despite growing pains, mobile payments and digital wallets will continue to be a dominant part of the Chinese economy. The only question is, when will the rest of the world follow suit?

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China

Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – much of it through our river systems. See which rivers are polluting the most.

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Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers

Every year, approximately eight million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic every single minute.

Every plastic fork and bottle cap bobbing along the surface of the ocean has made its way to the ocean from dry land at some point. As it turns out, the hydrological cycle that keeps water circulating around the planet is also an effective means for trash to hitch a ride from our riverside cities to the open ocean.

As today’s unique, vintage-themed map – via John Nelson at ESRI – visualizes the shocking amount of plastic emitted by major rivers in the world.

Plastic Superhighways

It would be hard to overstate plastic’s influence on modern life.

Unfortunately, when plastic is finished doing it’s job, only 10% of it ends up being recycled. Instead, much of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean, congregating in places like the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Plastic discharge is especially pronounced in large population centers along large rivers – particularly in rapidly urbanizing regions in China, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans

Waste management practices are limited to non-existent in many of Asia’s fast-growing urban areas, so it comes as little surprise that 14 to the top 20 plastic emitting rivers are located on that continent.

The mighty Yangtze – China’s largest river – supports a population of over 400 million people and is the most prolific emitter of plastic waste on the planet. Over 1.5 million metric tons of plastic is unleashed into the Yellow Sea from the river each year.

Stemming the Tide

Plastic emissions data makes one point clear – China is the key to decreasing the volume of trash entering our ocean ecosystems.

The good news is that the Chinese government has recognized the problem, mandating garbage sorting in nearly 50 cities and setting a target for at 35% recycling rate by 2020. A positive first step in the battle to stem the tide of plastic entering ocean systems.

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Upward Momentum: Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction

Nearly 150 skyscrapers were completed around the world last year. Find out which cities and regions are growing skyward the fastest.

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Ever since the first towering spires broke through the clouds in New York and Chicago, skyscrapers have remained a potent symbol of economic might.

The tallest buildings require vast amounts of materials, expertise, and capital to make them a reality, but the cities that add these landmarks to their skylines gain prestige and send a powerful message to competing economic centers.

Skyscraper Construction in 2018

Where are the most skyscrapers popping up? Let’s take a look at regional hot-spots around the world.

Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction
Note: For the purposes of this article, “skyscraper” will refer to buildings 656 feet (200 meters) or more in height.

China is Flying High

For well over two decades, China has led the world in skyscraper construction, and 2018 was no exception.

The country’s fixation on urban growth and continued economic success is producing tall buildings at a staggering rate. Last year, a mind-boggling 89 skyscrapers were completed in 28 different cities around China.

To put this building boom into perspective, China completed more skyscrapers in one year than New York City’s entire stock of 656ft and taller buildings.

Skyscrapers in China

In 2018, no city reached for the stars quite like Shenzhen. The city, which is a hub of China’s high-flying tech sector, now has the second-most skyscrapers in the world, surpassed only by Dubai.

Shenzhen isn’t just building a lot of skyscrapers, it’s building extremely tall ones too.

In 2017, for example, the ribbon was cut on the massive Ping An Finance Center, which is currently the 4th tallest building in the world. Last year alone, four new towers cracked the 1,000ft (300m) barrier.

Asia, Rising

While China’s scale is hard to beat, other cities in the region are also undergoing dramatic changes, particularly in Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia completed a combined 13 new skyscrapers, and the Vincom Landmark 81 was added to Ho Chi Minh City’s growing roster of unique skyscrapers.

While there are two skyscrapers under construction in Japan – one in Tokyo and one in Yokohama – none of them were completed last year.

A New Era of American Skyscrapers

After a two-decade lull in skyscraper construction, the United States is embracing taller buildings again. Last year alone, the U.S. added 14 new skyscrapers into the mix, particularly in New York City, where construction cranes dot the horizon. In the past decade, NYC has added 25 new skyscrapers to its iconic skyline.

This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Between now and 2022, 44 skyscraper projects are expected to be completed in the United States, with the vast majority being built in the Big Apple.

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