Internet and the Economy

October 1st, 2016

An interesting point from last class’s discussion centered around transactions and payment forms that have been made possible by the internet. As my classmates identified the influence that these forms of technology have on their everyday lives, I have noticed that the usage and infusion of these platforms are even more noticeable and engrained in the Chinese society. I want to focus my discussion on two particular giants in these areas: Taobao and WeChat Pay.

Taobao: Taobao was created in 2003 as a website similar to Amazon where consumers can shop from the ease of their homes. The website, however, has evolved beyond its scope as a shopping medium into a favorite cultural pastime. The website itself contains features like “community conversations” where buyers and sellers alike can post blogs to advertise their products or to initiate general conversation. Users of the website refer to each other as “qin,” a term that translates to “sweetheart.” In fact, the internet term “duo shou” evolved from the usage of taobao, referring to the need to chop one’s hands off in order to stop clicking purchase on the website. As a result, many stores such as the Chinese equivalent of Forever 21 have started operating online Taobao stores in hopes of attracting greater consumer attention.

WeChat Pay: Wechat is a Chinese social media platform similar to Facebook and Twitter. Although it’s predominantly used for communicating with friends and sharing posts on timelines, a growing percentage of users have picked up the WeChat Pay feature as a way to send money to friends or to complete transactions in stores and restaurants. For example, it is a tradition during the Lunar New Year for family members to exchange red packets containing money. As opposed to physically preparing cash and red envelopes, a percentage of the younger generation have started to use the WeChat Pay feature to send virtual red packets to friends and family. The app also allows for users to dictate how many people are eligible to claim a part of the money and can randomize the amount each user receives.

This summer while I was in China, I found it nearly impossible to fully integrate into my friend circle if I wasn’t familiar with Taobao or WeChat Pay. These two platforms, the epitome of commercialization of the internet, have asserted themselves as an integral part of comfortable living in China. It’s not to say that these are necessities for every single person, but it gets quite uncomfortable when you’re the only person still pulling out cash when everyone else is busy scanning barcodes in a restaurant line.

2 Responses to “Internet and the Economy”

  1. Jim Waldo said:

    Rita–
    An interesting set of observations. I’m particularly intrigued by the notion of the social pressure exerted to use these sorts of payment platforms. By becoming more convenient (or at least faster for checkout) it becomes awkward for you not to use the platform. I’ve noticed some of the commons on campus now have different lines for those who pay with credit cards or phones and those who pay with cash (and the lines for cash are often slower). While we didn’t talk about these kinds of pressures to adopt the new technology, they are very real…

  2. Mike Smith said:

    Fantastic reports, Rita. I hope your fellow students are reading your blog too.

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