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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?

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    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 Dec 22 '19 at 9:10
  • We cannot expect news reporters to get their numbers right. (Sorry, only anecdotal evidence.) – GEdgar Dec 22 '19 at 10:23
  • You can find more sources if you search for "277.39 trillion yuan". – nwellnhof Dec 22 '19 at 13:07
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    Official source can probably be found here. – nwellnhof Dec 22 '19 at 13:13
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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It's almost like cash is obsolete here.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:

(四)电子支付
4. Electronic payment

移动支付业务量快速增长。2018年,银行业金融机构共处理电子支付9业务1751.92亿笔,金额2539.70万亿元。其中,网上支付业务570.13亿笔,金额2126.30万亿元,同比分别增长17.36%和2.47%;移动支付业务605.31亿笔,金额277.39万亿元,同比分别增长61.19%和36.69%;电话支付业务1.58亿笔,金额7.68万亿元,同比分别下降0.99%和12.54%。

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)

Here:

  • 1 billion = 1,000 million = 1,000,000,000
  • 100 million = 1亿
  • 1 trillion = 1,000 billion = 1万亿
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    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. – JonathanReez Dec 23 '19 at 2:19
  • I guess the answer to that is many transactions are not "payments". – Rebecca J. Stones Dec 23 '19 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 Dec 27 '19 at 11:01

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