BETTY GABRIEL WAKIA
PORT MORESBY - In November of 2022, a few months after arriving in China’s Hubei Province, it was with a feeling of excitement that I strolled down the busy streets of Wuhan.
I wanted to see how Wuhan had changed since I lived there in 2011.
Eleven years later, I was returning to the place where I had started my journey in higher education.
And this time, it was with the knowledge that, in December this year, the Bank of China will begin to establish a national banking network in Papua New Guinea.
As I walked the streets of Wuhan, the memories came flooding back from that earlier stay.
It had been an almost overwhelming experience for a young Papua New Guinean woman.
The post-graduate study had been difficult and acclimatising to China and Chinese almost as hard.
But at the end of it all, I took home to PNG a master’s degree. Now I hope to add a doctorate to that.
“Finally free,” I said to myself as I walked, reaching out to the clear blue sky and thanking the universe.
The day was sunny and hot and I was delighted to see a street vendor pulling his trolley of fresh fruit towards me.
I selected a piece of juicy, mouth-watering melon and took out a 100 yuan (K50) note from my wallet.
To my surprise, the vendor didn’t want my cash.
Instead, he showed me the QR code on WeChat for an Alipay transaction.
I took out my mobile phone, scanned his QR code on my WeChat app, entered the amount and sent the money directly to his account.
A few seconds later the transaction was confirmed as reaching his account. I was surprised at its accessibility, its easiness and speed.
I was also amazed at how China had largely converted itself from cash to cashless economy within the three years of the Covid-19 shutdown.
The revolution has been driven by two leading online payment platforms, Tencents (on WeChat) and Alibaba's Alipay.
They will soon be joined by TikTok, which will launch its own payment service, Douyin.
China, the nation that introduced the world to banknotes, is now setting the pace to become the world’s first cashless society.
Unless you have the Tencents and Alipay apps on your phone, it’s becoming difficult to pay for a taxi, buy groceries or settle a restaurant bill in many cities across China.
For their part, WeChat and Alipay are constantly reminding consumers that the cashless economy is now part of daily living.
‘Cash free’ is a new trend in China and most people seem comfortable going out with mobile phones and no cash.
My own experience of a cashless society was a foretaste of how everyday financial transactions will soon be made throughout the world.
Despite paper money being a Chinese invention, it seems likely that China will be the world’s first cashless society.
The next big step will be the launch of e-CNY, also known as the digital yuan and officially called the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DC/EP).
This will improve the control of capital flows, help combat corruption and provide the central bank with new tools to stimulate the economy.
I find it very exciting that the Papua New Guinea government has welcomed a proposal by the Bank of China to establish and operate a national banking network from December this year.
Opening our door to one of the world's four largest banks is a fine initiative.
PNG can learn a thing or two from China's future digital currency.
Betty Gabriel Wakia is currently studying for her PhD at Wuhan University of Technology, where she previously completed a Masters’ degree
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