China's "four great new inventions" in modern times

Xinhua
Dockless shared bicycles, high-speed rail, Alipay, and e-commerce.
Xinhua

In recent years, a number of China's technological innovations have been making their moves in the world. Among them, four stand out with a reputation of China's "four great new inventions" in modern times, which have made the daily life of the public more and more convenient.

Dockless shared bicycles

Presently, there are over 30 bike-sharing companies in China that operate around 10 million bicycles for shared use to individuals in dozens of Chinese cities.

Although the service of shared bikes originated from Western countries, China surprised the world with a business model of station-less shared bikes that spearheads the sharing economy.

Compared with traditional shared bikes, dockless bikes allow users to simply pick up or park a bike anywhere on the street, instead of at designated docking points.

By combining GPS, smartphone apps, mobile payment and Internet of Things technology, China's system of dockless shared bikes provides the public with a convenient and affordable transport alternative.

To unlock a bike, you need to scan a QR (QuickResponse) code on a shared bike through a smartphone app. To finish riding, you manually lock the bike and pay for your ride though mobile payment services that are connected with the bike app, such as AliPay and the WeChat wallet.

China's two leading bike-sharing operators, Mobike and Ofo, have been gearing up for global expansion.

Mobike entered Singapore in March and Manchester, Britain, in June. Its distinctive orange bikes can also be spotted on the streets of Florence and Milan, Italy. This September, Mobike is set to land on the soil of London. Ofo, similarly, has begun operating in the United States, Britain, Singapore and Kazakhstan.

In the financial market, the two rivalries have also gone neck and neck. In June, Mobike raised 600 million U.S. dollars in a Series E financing round led by China's Internet titan Tencent, the largest in the global bike sharing industry to date. Now, the company's total funding has reached nearly 1 billion dollars. In February, Ofo also raised 450 million dollars, which valued the company at 1 billion dollars.

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High-speed rail

Boasting low cost and quick delivery, China has built the world's longest high-speed rail (HSR) network. Branded as a "name card" for China, HSR runs at speeds of 250-350 kilometers per hour (km/h).

By the end of 2016, China had a 124,000-km railway network, which had the world's largest HSR network of more than 22,000 km. It had operated 2,595 high-speed trains by 2016, which took up 60 percent of the world's total high-speed trains.

HSR service debuted in China in 2008. Since then, the country has witnessed an average annual growth of over 30 percent in passenger trips, according to statistics from the China Railway Corporation. By 2016, there had been more than 5 billion passenger trips on China's bullet trains in eight years.

Currently, China is working on next-generation bullet trains with a maximum speed of 400 km/h. By 2020, one fifth of the country's 150,000-km railway network will have been HSR, linking more than 80 percent of major cites across the country, according to data from the National Development and Reform Commission.

China's HSR has also gone global. In 2014, China completed the construction of its first overseas high-speed rail in Turkey. In June 2015, China and Russia inked deals for 770 km of track connecting Moscow and Kazan.

In October 2015, China and Indonesia signed a joint-venture agreement on the construction of a high-speed rail between Jakarta and Bandung. Besides, the China-Thailand railway is currently under construction.

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Alipay

Alipay, or Zhifubao, is China's leading mobile and online payment service, established in 2004 by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. During the online transaction process, Alipay acts as a third-party platform, on which buyers pay for their goods by imputing payment passwords or scanning payment code on the Alipay app installed on their mobile devices.

Besides, Alipay can also be used for transferring money from one Alipay online account to another account, or from the online account to a bank account by binding a debit card to the online account. It is such convenience that enables China to edge its way towards being a cashless society.

On top of that, users can pay family or personal bills through Alipay, such as water and electricity bills.

Alipay also supports cross-border online and in-store payment, which allows users to make purchases on international websites and apps with Alipay.

In 2013, Alipay exceeded PayPal as the world's largest mobile payment platform. Thanks to the massive user base and various payment scenarios in China, online and mobile payment has enjoyed absolute advantages in market competition.

In the first quarter of 2017, the market share of Alipay and its major rivalry Tenpay (Wechat payment) reached respectively 54 percent and 40 percent, according to Chinese market research and consulting company iResearch.

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E-commerce

With around 731 million Internet users, China has been the world's largest and fastest-growing e-commerce market. In 2016, online shopping in China saw a growth rate of 26.2 percent, generating 5.16 trillion yuan (767 billion dollars), according to a report on China's economic data by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year, Chinese people bought more food online with a growth of 28.5 percent. Clothing sales rose by 18.1 percent in the year, while items like mobile devices took up nearly 12 percent.

E-commerce now accounts for 15.5 percent of the total retail sales in the country. Thanks to lower costs and fewer licensing requirements, the bar for individual merchants to open an online shop in China has been set lower than the threshold for opening a physical retail store.

E-commerce has also injected fresh vigor and vitality into the economy of rural China in recent years. In 2016, e-commerce created more than 20 million jobs in rural villages, with over 8.1 million online business owners. Rural buyers also contributed 894 billion yuan (131 billion dollars) to China's e-commerce sales last year.

Leading operators in China's e-commerce market include JD.com, and Alibaba's Tmall and Taobao.



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