Starting this week, users have been able to scan a UnionPay QR code using the WeChat app and vice versa, marking a major step in the continuing consolidation of China's mobile payment industry. UnionPay is China's major bank card payment processing organization and the world's largest card scheme before Visa and Mastercard.
China leads the world in adopting QR-code-based mobile payment, but it's also one of the most high-profile examples of "walled gardens." Prominent players — WeChat, Alipay and UnionPay among them — each generate a different QR code at point of payment that can only be used within that company's tech ecosystem. As a result, business owners often have to present several codes at the cashier so all customers can use their app of choice.
In a two-year blueprint for the country's fintech industry released in Aug 2019, China's central bank called for the interconnection of different payment QR codes. The progress between WeChat and UnionPay has led some to speculate whether Alipay and WeChat will also consolidate their QR codes too under the current climate of intensifying antitrust scrutiny.