According to an article on Entepreneur.com:

China had 1.2 billion unique mobile subscribers by the end of last year, making it the largest mobile market in the world. This widespread mobile ecosystem has resulted in a steep growth in mobile payments over the past five years, with transactions touching 277.4 trillion yuan ($41.51 trillion) in 2018, which is almost 28 times more than what it was five years ago, according to a report by the country’s central bank, People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

There are multiple other sources, but I cannot trace the Chinese original. Is the above number true?

  • 2
    That means every Chinese man, woman and child spent almost $35,000 each on-line in 2018. I'm guessing that's more than the average income. Unless the Chinese billionaires spend really big on-line, something's wrong here ;-)
    – hdhondt
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 9:10
  • We cannot expect news reporters to get their numbers right. (Sorry, only anecdotal evidence.)
    – GEdgar
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 10:23
  • You can find more sources if you search for "277.39 trillion yuan".
    – nwellnhof
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 13:07
  • 1
    Official source can probably be found here.
    – nwellnhof
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: The Chinese government document 2018年支付体系运行总体情况 (linked in nwellnhof's comment) says:

2018年 ... 移动支付业务605.31亿笔,金额277.39万亿元 ...
In 2018 ... [there were] mobile payment services [of] 60.531 billion transactions, [and] monetary value 277.39 trillion yuan ...

First, some context.

Chinese people virtually don't pay in cash anymore, they pay using their phones, typically using WeChat (微信) and/or Alipay (支付宝). They also buy a lot online, using TaoBao (淘宝), JingDong (京东), etc.

It's almost like cash is obsolete here. This includes buying basically anything, e.g., you can buy a car, make everyday transactions, pay your rent, etc., using these services.

So, large numbers are unsurprising: it probably includes a billion people making a large proportion of their transactions this way.

My Chinese is not fantastic, but I'll attempt a translation of the relevant information in the Chinese government document linked in nwellnhof's comment:

4. Electronic payment


Mobile payment business rapidly increased in quantity. 2018 banking and finance dealt with electronic payments [by] 9 services [of] 175.192 billion transactions, [and] monetary value 2,539.70 trillion yuan. Among these, online payment business [of] 57,013 billion transactions, [and] monetary value 2,126.30 trillion yuan, [and] over this period, respective growth [of] 17.36% and 2.47%; mobile payment services [of] 60.531 billion transactions, [and] monetary value 277.39 trillion yuan, [and] over this period, respective growth [of] 61.19% and 36.69%; telephone payment service [of] 158 million translations, [and] monetary value 7.68 trillion yuan, [and] over this period a respective decline [of] 0.99% and 12.54%.

2018年支付体系运行总体情况 2018 Payment System Operation Overall Situation (pdf)


  • 1 billion = 1,000 million = 1,000,000,000
  • 100 million = 1亿
  • 1 trillion = 1,000 billion = 1万亿
  • 2
    But how could Chinese consumers spend four times more on mobile payments than the GDP of China ($12 trillion as of 2018)? By its very definition the GDP should cover every product sold within China. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 2:19
  • 1
    I guess the answer to that is many transactions are not "payments". Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 2:27
  • To me that does not seem to make much sense. As @JonathanReez said that total value of payments cannot be higher than GDP. So even if many transactions were not payments the total value should not be as high. I think the answer should include this contradiction.
    – redleo85
    Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 11:01
  • It is possible. Consider for example gifts (CNY, birthdays, festivals) - an ordinary Chinece would gift money to many people, and receive monetary gifts from them. At the end of the day, he spent $2000 and received roughly $2000 - so it is total $4000 in online payment transactions, but he is in the same position financially. Note that online payments between people are comission-free in China.
    – George Y.
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 3:02

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