Introduction to China

An overview of China's currency, population and key statistics.

Cash currency

China's official currency is the yuan, represented by the symbols "CNY" or "¥." It is issued and regulated by the People's Bank of China (PBC). The yuan is further divided into smaller units known as fen (分) and jiao (角). However, fen is no longer used in everyday transactions, and jiao is becoming less prevalent.

In terms of banknotes, the yuan has the following denominations currently in circulation: 1 yuan, 5 yuan, 10 yuan, 20 yuan, 50 yuan, and 100 yuan. Additionally, there are coins available for smaller denominations, which include 1 jiao, 5 jiao, and 1 yuan.

Digital Currency

China has introduced a digital currency known as Digital Currency Electronic Payment, also called the digital yuan. The PBC issues this form of currency. The primary objective is to replace a portion of the physical cash. Real-world trials of the digital yuan have commenced in Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Suzhou.

China's Population

China had a population of approximately 1,439,323,776 as of the middle of 2020, according to United Nations data. The latest UN data from 2021, as analysed by Worldometer, suggests that the country's population reached 1,442,903,480, with 60.8% residing in urban regions, particularly in Shanghai, Beijing, and Chongqing. The median age of the population stood at 38.4 years.

Languages spoken in China

Standard Chinese, commonly referred to as Putonghua, is the official national language of mainland China. It is primarily based on the Beijing Mandarin dialect. In Hong Kong and Macau, Cantonese holds co-official status alongside English and Portuguese, respectively.

Key statistics

  • According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's gross domestic product reached 114.367 trillion yuan in 2021. The country's GDP expanded by 3% to 121.02 trillion yuan in 2022. China's gross savings rate in China remained steady at 45.9% in December 2021 compared to the previous year.

  • Data compiled by PPRO APAC indicates that approximately 80% of the Chinese population possessed bank accounts in 2020, while only 21% of them were credit card holders.

China's internet & mobile phone trends

  • In December 2020, Statista reported that approximately 20.5% of individuals between the ages of 30 and 39 possessed internet connectivity. The other age categories had slightly lower percentages, with only 3% of individuals aged 10 years or below regularly accessing the internet.

  • In January 2021, Datareportal documented 939.8 million internet users, representing an internet penetration rate of 65.2%. Additionally, the PPRO APAC Report indicated that smartphone penetration reached 60% by the conclusion of 2020.

China's e-commerce stats

According to the PPRO APAC Report, the average yearly revenue per paying customer amounted to $2,386 in 2020. Most cross-border online shopping done by Chinese consumers involves purchasing items from Japan, the United States, and Hong Kong.

Summary of the China's fiscal policy

The 2022 Government Work Report sets forth a comprehensive vision for the year, emphasising the importance of an active fiscal policy that prioritises efficiency, precision, and sustainability. In line with this objective, the government aims to maintain a deficit ratio of around 2.8%, which would be the lowest since the coronavirus outbreak.

To bolster economic growth, China plans to increase fiscal support while ensuring monetary policy stability during the rest of the year. As a result, the country's full-year economic growth is expected to reach an impressive 8.5% or even higher.

However, China's economy faces significant challenges that warrant careful consideration. One such challenge is the real estate market, which in 2022 experienced a surge in defaults among developers, including prominent companies like Evergrande. Given that property development accounts for approximately 25% to 30% of the Chinese economy, these defaults have far-reaching implications that cannot be overlooked.

Additionally, China's zero-coronavirus policy poses another potential threat. As the virus mutates and spreads rapidly, implementing and sustaining stringent measures may entail higher costs, potentially impacting the economy further.

How people pay in China

An overview of how people in China choose to make payments.

Traditional payment methods

An overview of how people in China choose to make payments.


Visa offers electronic payment solutions through Visa-branded credit or debit cards. Some examples of Visa card providers in China include Bank of China and Citibank.


Global payment and technology company Mastercard offers its service of processing payments between retailers' banks and card-issuing banks. One example of a Mastercard provider in China is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

American Express

American Express is a company that provides various financial services, such as credit cards, charge cards, and traveller's cheques. American Express is accepted in most major cities and shops in China, mainly in the travel and hospitality sectors.

Alternative payment methods (APMs)

The top APMs used in China.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay, a mobile payment service from Apple Inc, allows users to make in-person, online, and in-app payments. It replaces chip and PIN transactions at contactless terminals.


PayPal is a frequently used digital payment system that allows clients to use their PayPal accounts, debit/credit cards, or bank accounts. Customers use PayPal for secure online shopping and to send/receive money.


Alipay, established by Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, China in 2004, is now one of the world's largest mobile payment platforms. It enables users to make payments, transfer money, pay bills, and access additional services like insurance and wealth management. It also offers a BNPL scheme for users.

WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay is a popular payment feature in China. Users of the WeChat app can make mobile payments, send money and top up mobile accounts. It is widely used for both online and offline transactions, making it one of the country's preferred mobile payment methods.


UnionPay is a Chinese financial services corporation headquartered in Shanghai. It operates as the primary card scheme in mainland China, authorised by the People's Bank of China. With acceptance in 174 countries and regions, UnionPay ranks as the third-largest payment network globally, after Visa and Mastercard.

How to accept payments in China

A guide to accepting payments in China.

How to accept online payments in China

Before accepting online payments, you must determine which methods you prefer. Then you can choose a payment gateway provider, a service that authorises and processes online payments with their specific system.

The 4-party payment model

Although there are plenty of payment gateway options in China, the general process for online payments typically involves an acquirer, issuer, retailer, and cardholder in the following steps known as the 4-party payment model:

  1. The cardholder initiates a payment by presenting their payment card to the retailer to purchase goods or services.

  2. The retailer sends the payment details to the acquirer, who processes the payment request and sends it to the payment scheme (such as Mastercard or Visa).

  3. The payment scheme sends the payment request to the issuer (such as a bank or licensed issuer) who issued the card to the cardholder.

  4. The issuer checks if the cardholder has enough funds to complete the transaction and approves or declines the payment request. if the payment is approved, the issuer sends an authorisation code to the payment scheme.

  5. The payment scheme sends the authorisation code to the acquirer, which then sends it to the retailer, completing the transaction.

How long does an international payment from China take?

The payment processing time may vary depending on the method and the recipient's bank. For instance, online money transfers through platforms like PayPal can quickly and conveniently send money to multiple destinations.

  1. Bank debit/credit cards: International payments with bank debit or credit cards may take a few minutes to a few hours, depending on bank processing times.

  2. Online money transfers: Platforms like PayPal can process international payments within minutes to hours, depending on the service and destination country.

  3. Wire transfers: Traditional bank-to-bank transfers via SWIFT or wire may take one to five business days or longer, depending on the destination country, intermediary banks, and transaction requirements.


Merchant fees

Merchant fees for online payments in China can vary depending on the payment method and the merchant services provider used. Here are some examples of typical merchant fees for online payments in China:

  • Credit and debit cards: Merchant fees for accepting credit and debit card payments online can range according to the transaction amount. It also varies depending on the type of card used and the merchant services provider.

  • Bank transfers: Bank transfer fees can vary depending on the bank used, with some banks charging a flat fee per transaction and others charging a percentage of the transaction amount.

Other fees

Other fees surrounding online payments in China include charges incurred bymerchants, payment processors, and financial institutions involved in the payment processing chain. Below are some common fees:

  • Interchange fees: Interchange fees are charges paid by merchants' banks to cardholders' banks to cover the costs of processing card transactions. These fees are usually based on a percentage of the transaction value and can vary depending on the type of card used and the merchant's industry.

  • Payment gateway fees: Payment gateway providers charge a fee for processing transactions on their platform, which may be a percentage of the transaction value or a flat fee per transaction.

  • Cross-border fees: If a merchant accepts payments from customers outside the country, they may be subject to additional fees for cross-border transactions, including currency conversion fees and international processing fees.

  • Merchant discount rate: A processing fee that merchants are charged for transactions made using credit or debit cards. This fee generally falls within 1% to 3% of the total transaction amount.

Security challenges of online payments in China

Online payments in China have grown popular, offering convenience and efficiency. However, security challenges have emerged. The leakage of personal information is a major concern, with unauthorised access leading to identity theft and financial fraud. Mobile app usage has made devices vulnerable to fraud, with over 50% of global fraud occurring on mobile platforms. The rise in e-commerce has also increased digital payment fraud.

Banks and financial institutions can implement advanced security technologies and authentication methods like facial recognition to address these challenges. In addition, collaboration between government agencies, financial institutions, and technology companies is crucial, along with raising consumer awareness about secure payment practices.

Key sectors & industries in China

An overview of the Chinese market.

China's top 10 industries by revenue

According to the US International Trade Administration, the top 10 industries in China are:

  • Agriculture China's agricultural imports, exports, and production have expanded significantly since joining the WTO in 2001. In 2021, China became the largest export market for US agricultural products, amounting to $35.9 billion. However, China's agricultural and food sectors face complex and ever-changing regulations, including coronavirus sanitary measures, creating barriers to market access.

  • Aviation China is the world's second-largest civil aerospace and aviation services market, with numerous commercial opportunities across subsectors. By the end of 2021, China had 248 transport airports, including seven new ones. The passenger throughput in 2021 reached 907 million, representing a 5.9% increase from 2020 and 67.1% of the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

  • Automotive China remains the world's largest vehicle market in sales and manufacturing output. By 2025, domestic production is projected to reach 35 million vehicles. In 2021, China sold over 26 million vehicles, including 21.48 million passenger vehicles (up 7.1% from 2020) and 4.79 million commercial vehicles (down 6.6% from 2020).

  • Cosmetics According to Euromonitor International, China's beauty and personal care market experienced a 10% sales increase, reaching $88 billion in 2021. Growth was particularly notable in colour cosmetics and fragrances, driven by consumer trading up. Live streaming has become a major sales platform for cosmetics in China, representing about 10% of e-commerce, appealing to smartphone-savvy consumers.

  • Construction As the world's largest construction market, China has been significantly affected by government regulations and policies. Its 14th five-year plan prioritises new infrastructure projects in transportation, energy, water systems, and urbanisation. The plan aims to invest around 27 trillion yuan in new infrastructure between 2021 and 2025, focusing on energy efficiency, green building development, retrofitting of existing buildings, and the construction of net zero energy consumption buildings.

  • Education Overseen by the Ministry of Education, China's education system is the world's largest state-run system. With 291 million students and 18 million teachers in over 529,000 schools as of 2021, it aims to establish a modern education system focused on lifelong learning, including universal preschool education, balanced compulsory education, enhanced vocational education, and competitive higher education.

  • Energy China aims to address carbon emissions by reaching peak emissions by 2030, achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, and doubling its economy by 2035. The five-year plan includes targets for reducing carbon dioxide and energy intensity from 2021 to 2025. However, reducing reliance on coal is crucial for China's decarbonisation success, despite challenges such as power rationing and droughts. Coal and petroleum currently dominate China's energy mix, but there is a growing focus on diversification.

  • Environmental Technology China is the largest emerging market for environmental technology products, experiencing an annual compound growth rate of 14.1% between 2016 and 2020. In 2021, the country's environmental protection industry generated an operating income of 2.18 trillion yuan, a rise of 11.8% from 2020. This industry accounted for 1.9% of China's GDP and employed over 3.2 million people.

  • Healthcare China is the world's second-largest healthcare market, and medical devices are a significant sector for foreign businesses, especially high-end and technology-heavy devices. Public hospitals are the main buyers, accounting for 70.2% of beds and 84.2% of patient visits. The Chinese medical device market is projected to reach $48.8 billion by 2026, with an 8.3% compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2026. Imports comprise three-quarters of the market, and US suppliers held a 27.2% share in 2021, valued at $5.62 billion. Diagnostic imaging and consumables make up nearly 50% of the market value.

  • Travel and Tourism In 2019, China ranked fifth in international travellers to the United States. The number of Chinese visitors decreased by 5% in that period. This decline can be attributed to the pandemic and suspended air routes, creating uncertainty in travel demand. Despite the decrease, Chinese travellers still contributed $33.5 billion to the US economy in 2019, with an average expenditure of $11,849 per visitor.

China's exports

China's leading export categories encompass a range of high-value items. These sought-after goods contribute significantly to China's export earnings, with broadcasting equipment amounting to $231 billion, Computers to $192 billion, and integrated circuits to $158 billion.

Meanwhile, its import landscape is characterised by a diverse array of commodities. crude petroleum, integrated circuits, iron ore, petroleum gas, and copper ore constitute the country's top imports.

Regulation in China

The regulatory environment of China.

Summary of the regulatory environment in China

To maintain fairness and operational smoothness in business ventures in China, entrepreneurs are required to comply with a range of laws and regulations, which include:

  • Company law: This includes regulations governing companies' establishment, operations, and dissolution.

  • Employment law: This includes regulations governing employment contracts, working conditions, and employee rights.

  • Product liability law: This includes regulations governing the legal liabilities and responsibilities of manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and other parties involved in the production and sale of goods.

  • Intellectual property law: This includes regulations governing copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

  • Competition law: This includes regulations governing competition and antitrust matters to promote fair competition.

  • Consumer protection law: This includes regulations governing the rights of consumers, product safety, and advertising standards.

  • Data protection law: This includes regulations concerning the collection, use, and storage of personal data.

Several government agencies oversee various aspects of the law related to businesses and consumer rights in China. For example, the State Administration for Market Regulation oversees anything related to the company, competition, consumer protection, and product laws. Meanwhile, the Cyberspace Administration is responsible for formulating and implementing data protection and cybersecurity regulations.

How card payments are regulated in China

In China, the regulation of card payments falls under the authority of the PBC. It has established a framework in which its own payment systems serve as the foundation, while the payment systems of banking institutions play a central role.

Companies involved in payment services, such as Alipay, offer alternative payment solutions, including open online virtual accounts. Before conducting payment operations, these companies must acquire a payment business permit from the PBC to comply with the established regulations.

Do I need a licence to do business in China?

Yes. It is necessary to acquire a business licence in China. The exact type of licence and the criteria for its acquisition will vary depending on the nature of the intended business. Typically, it is required to register the business with the local branch of the Administration for Industry and Commerce and obtain a valid business licence before commencing operations within China's legal framework.

Payment solutions in China

An overview of how to accept payments from customers in China.

Payment gateways and providers in China

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, companies need to ensure a seamless payment experience for their customers to succeed. Acknowledging this critical requirement, APEXX, a prominent payment technology company headquartered in London, presents a comprehensive solution tailored to Chinese merchants seeking to accept payments from various providers.

Recognising the significance of catering to diverse payment methods to accommodate customer preferences and improve their overall experience, businesses need an efficient and streamlined payment processing solution. APEXX addresses this demand with its Payment Orchestration Layer (POL) platform, which serves as a centralised hub connecting multiple payment providers, including banks, acquirers, and alternative payment methods.

With APEXX POL, businesses can easily manage multiple payment options through a single platform, simplifying their payment processing operations. This robust platform offers a wide range of features designed to optimise payment efficiency.

One of its notable features is intelligent routing, which automatically selects the most suitable payment provider for each transaction based on factors such as cost, currency, and risk assessment. By doing so, APEXX POL enables businesses to reduce transaction fees and minimise the risk of payment failures.

Integration of APEXX POL into existing payment systems is seamless and straightforward. The platform provides a variety of APIs and pre-built plugins, facilitating integration with various e-commerce websites and point-of-sale systems. This flexibility allows businesses to smoothly incorporate APEXX POL into their infrastructure, eliminating disruptions or complexities.

APEXX is a trusted payment provider dedicated to delivering innovative solutions that address the evolving needs of businesses in China and beyond. With its comprehensive payment orchestration capabilities, APEXX empowers businesses to effectively manage multiple payment options, optimise payment processing, and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction.

Cheapest payment solutions in China

To reduce fees in their payment stacks, merchants in China can implement the following strategies:

  • Negotiate fees: Merchants should negotiate with their payment providers for better rates, which can include transaction fees, interchange fees, and monthly fees.

  • Choose a suitable payment provider: Merchants should research and compare different payment providers to select the one that offers competitive rates and low fees.

  • Use alternative payment methods: Merchants can reduce fees by using alternative payment methods such as e-wallets or bank transfers instead of traditional card payments.

  • Prevent chargebacks: To avoid chargebacks and additional fees, merchants can offer clear product descriptions, prompt customer complaint resolution, and refunds when necessary.

  • Implement fraud prevention measures: Merchants should adopt fraud prevention measures to prevent fraudulent transactions, which can lead to chargebacks and additional fees.

  • Monitor payment processing fees: Merchants should keep a close eye on their payment processing fees and use payment analytics tools to track their expenses and identify areas where they can reduce costs.

Merchants can also consider using payment aggregators such as APEXX, which allow them to accept multiple payment methods through a single platform, reducing the need for multiple payment providers and lowering costs.

BNPL in China

BNPL is a financing option at the point of sale that enables customers to make purchases and settle payments through instalment plans over a specified period. While BNPL is not yet widely used in China compared to other payment methods, it exhibits significant potential for growth. Leading players in the Chinese market offering BNPL services include Alipay and

According to a report from, the BNPL market in China has emerged as one of the fastest-growing markets in the Asia-Pacific region. The adoption of BNPL payments is projected to experience steady growth throughout the forecast period, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.9% from 2021 to 2028. The gross merchandise value of BNPL transactions in China is expected to surge from $127,102.5 million in 2020 to an estimated $510,982.1 million by 2028.

Merchants in China can use APEXX to integrate different payment systems or providers to provide BNPL options to their customers and effectively manage their payment systems.

Sign up for the newsletter

By submitting this form, you acknowledge that you have reviewed the terms of our Privacy Statement and consent to the use of data in accordance therewith.

The APEXX Payment Orchestration Platform is the last integration you will ever need

Lowest cost
We structure ourselves to operate in the most efficient way. We are not an additional cost as we take the place of the payment gateway.
Lead in Orchestration
We enhance the payment experience by driving up acceptance rates thereby reducing friction and lost sales for our Merchants.
Excellent Customer Support
The APEXX Payment Orchestration Platform is architected to the highest industry standards of security and support ensuring that our merchants have the best protection and support access at all times.