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China's WeChat becoming way of life

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-26 13:58

BEIJING — It has become a common scene during subway rides in China's capital Beijing that majority passengers set their eyes on cell phone screens while text messaging, sharing moments, watching videos or playing online games, in silence.

They are just using WeChat, the most popular social media app in the Asian country. The prevailing WeChat has also developed over recent years to become a payment means for online or offline shopping, renting public bicycles, or taking taxis.

In fact, it can do payment for almost anything that used to be done in cash or by credit cards.

"WeChat has become a way of life for the Chinese. We started to use it for text messaging and life moment sharing. Now we pay via WeChat and we rarely use cash even at small shops," said Jia Hechen, a 20-year-old medical college school graduate.

"For the Chinese, daily life would become inconvenient without WeChat," he told Xinhua.

The young man is just among hundreds of millions of WeChat users in China that has a 1.3 billion population. WeChat is a social media free application developed by China's Tencent company and launched in 2011. Data last year showed it attracted some 889 million monthly active users.

On a busy street in Beijing's Chaoyang district, Liu Qiannan, a college student in her early 20s, unlocked one of the dozens of parked public bikes after paying a rental just by scanning the QR Code built in the bike with her cell phone Wechat scanner.

"WeChat is becoming more and more popular. We use it as a way of payment and it saves a lot of time. The phone has become an important part of our life and people today communicate more via electronic tools rather than face to face," Liu said, noting that all her family members and friends use WeChat.

WeChat also makes it convenient for foreigners living in or visiting China to communicate with their families and friends back home, like 19-year-old Grace Gibbons from the United States, who came to Beijing from Maryland University for a four-month study of the Chinese language.

"I think WeChat is pretty necessary for a foreigner living in China. Whenever you meet any person anywhere in China the first question is 'Oh, do you have WeChat?' In the United States We use Facebook, Twitter and Messenger to communicate but I find WeChat more comprehensive," said the young woman.

"As a foreigner, it is a very convenient way for me to keep up with my family and friends without having to make long distance calls to every single person. It also includes everything in one platform as you can pay directly and securely through it," she added.

For Ann Wang, 31, an employee at a business company, WeChat also helps her communicate with her bosses at work and her friends abroad.

"We use WeChat at work as well as our everyday life. It's very convenient for communicating with business partners, colleagues and bosses, besides family and friends," she said at Beijing's airport while waiting for her flight to eastern Anhui Province.

"We don't even need to make phone calls, as we can send voice messages and make video calls. I have two friends living in the United States and Canada and we communicate through WeChat," she added.

Moreover, WeChat has become an alternative source in China of information and news for young people, according to experts.

"WeChat is a quicker way for people to get news, but they have to distinguish between what's true and what's false. I believe WeChat is sufficient for Chinese and it puts them in no need of other Western-oriented social media tools," Huang Nana, a journalist working with the Anhui Daily Group, told Xinhua.

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