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Expo 2020 Dubai: Financial Services, Fintech and Wider Digital in China

As The Fintech Times looks at different fintech landscapes around the world, using Expo 2020 Dubai as the main focal point, the following now looks at China.

With the theme ‘building a community with a shared future for mankind—innovation & opportunity,’ at an area of 4,636 square metres, the China Pavilion is one of the largest national pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai.

In terms of tech as a whole, Chinese innovation has been on display such as with one of Expo 2020 Dubai’s premier partners, Terminus Group. The company has supplied various Optis and Titan Series robots at the World’s Fair to aid visitors.

With a population of around 1.4 billion people, the largest country in the world by population metric has had over 1.1 billion of its population enjoy the benefits of fintech across various areas. This includes the likes of mobile payments, insurance, banking and consumer lending. Also, fintech has allowed for over 30 million micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to gain access to loans, according to a 2021 report published by the World Economic Forum called The Next Chapter for Fintech in China.

According to the same report, there are three stages of the fintech industry’s development. First, from 1984 til 2003, The computerisation of China’s banking sector was completed, which gave the country a modern payment infrastructure, seeing key developments like the Golden Card Project launched in 1993 and the Data Centralisation Project initiated in 1999.

To note, much of this stemmed from China opening up its economy to the world in 1978, where its financial system, in particular, saw wider development. This included the eventual separation of the Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). The former was recharacterised as a commercial bank and ladder as a central bank.

In a recently released Global Fintech Hub Report 2021, Beijing was named the best fintech hub, followed by San Francisco, New York, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and London
In a recently released Global Fintech Hub Report 2021, Beijing was named the best fintech hub, followed by San Francisco, New York, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and London IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

Second, from 2004 to 2014 saw, in particular, the relevance and importance of the internet and its relationship with the financial sector.

There was an increase in Chinese-made innovations, such as in 2004 with the launch of Alipay, which was the first company in China that offers online (and later mobile) payments. Later, other innovations like China’s first peer to peer (P2P) lending company, PPDAI, launch and Yu’ebao, an internet-based money market fund sales platform, launched in 2013.

Third, from 2015 to the present, further innovations can be seen in China as a whole, specifically with intelligentisation, or in other words the comprehensive and penetrative use of D-BASIC technologies that help replace manual labour within the financial sector and businesses within them.

Successes that were seen included in 2015 with the selection of eight pilot companies for personal credit reporting licences in 2015, the growth of internet-microlending companies in 2017 and online mutual aid market growth the year after.

Fintech unicorn examples from Hong Kong include Airwallex, TNG, and WeLab
Fintech unicorn examples from Hong Kong include Airwallex, TNG, and WeLab IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

Another example is Hong Kong SAR. When the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997, Hong Kong and fintech in particular has had the opportunity to grow in its current form. As a leading financial and commercial hub, Hong Kong’s fintech ecosystem had an opportunity to grow as well.

According to Fintech Hong Kong and Invest Hong Kong, there are various reasons showing the city’s strengths in the fintech space.

For instance, the city is home to over 600 fintech companies and startups, where it is home to 9 unicorn companies and to three of the KPMG Fintech 100. Fintech unicorn examples from Hong Kong include Airwallex, TNG, and WeLab.

In Mainland China, there are 13 fintech unicorns (as of last year) which include the likes of Ant Group (brands includes Alipay and Yu’ebao for instance), Tencent (includes WeChat Pay), Lufax and Zhong An.

Back to Hong Kong, many business people see it as a platform and gateway to mainland China. It has one of the highest consumer fintech adoptions in the world as well, which is higher than other markets like the United States and Japan.

In addition, it has been collaborative on the global stage, where for instance, in February last year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), together with the Bank of Thailand (BOT), the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China (PBC DCI), announced the participation of the CBUAE and the PBC DCI in the second phase of Project Inthanon-LionRock, which aim is to study the application of central bank digital currency in cross-border payments. Remained as the Multiple Central Bank Digital Currency (m-CBDC) Bridge, a report was published last September of the findings.

Since 2018, China has become the world’s leading fintech investor. That year, the country’s fintech investment reached over $25 billion, which was over 50 per cent of the global total and was a 900 per cent growth year-on-year. is now the world’s leading fintech investor since 2018. In 2019, China’s fintech sector had an estimated market value of almost $60 billion and for this year the market value is expected to be at least $85 billion.

In a recently released Global Fintech Hub Report 2021, Beijing was named the best fintech hub, followed by San Francisco, New York, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and London. In fact, the US and Chinese cities dominated the list. In the top 20, other Chinese cities included Guangzhou (13th), Hong Kong (14th), and Nanjing (20th).

With regards to Beijing, a clear example of it helping foster the fintech ecosystem was in 2018 when it launched the first Fintech Demonstration Zone (FDZ). The FDZ brings various financial institutions, tech companies, and research and development (R&D) initiatives to foster talent and industry standards, financial security infrastructure and accelerate a wider fintech innovation ecosystem. Companies such as QI-ANXIN have their headquarters there.

China’s ambitions are felt and this is evident in fintech. Recently, the PBOC released its Fintech Development Plan for 2022-2025, where it aims to further drive digital transformation in finance in the country and develop the wider fintech ecosystem in the next four years. This aligns with the country’s 14th Five Year Plan, a roadmap for China’s social and economic development in the period between 2021 and 2025.

China’s ambitions can be seen in how fast its fintech sector has grown and its importance of it in the wider global ecosystem. Its vision for the future sees wider digital transformation playing a strong part in that, which includes fintech.


  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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