China’s economic life is moving rapidly online, which can make life easier in many ways for many people but it is a development that is not without challenges for some sections of society either.

For example, at the end of 2017, 17% of the population was over the age of 60 – more than 241 million people – a proportion set to rise to around 25% by 2030.

“For many Chinese, mobile payment has become an essential part of their everyday lives,” according to Zhang Jianjun, an economist based in Gansu. “It not only changes the lives of young people, but also provides convenience for the elderly,” he told China Daily.

That’s only true, however, if they are able to keep up with rapidly changing technology. A recent viral video highlighted the difficulties as an older man wanting to pay cash for some grapes became involved in an altercation with shop staff who would only accept payment by app.

WeChat Pay and Alipay have driven the trend for mobile payment which has become normalised, with developed cities increasingly cashless.

Millennials and young professionals in particular, have embraced it due to its convenience, but it has permeated all aspects of life, changing everyday habits, from shopping for clothes to paying for utilities.

Rui Zhong, a program assistant at the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, has written that “Mobile payments are carving out lines between young and old, and between the prosperous urban middle class and those left behind by the boom times.”

While there are classes in many urban areas to help older consumers learn about things like online shopping and online banking, Quartz also noted that rural China is in danger of being left behind.

It quoted Michael Phillips, a Canadian psychologist based in Shanghai, who has spent some years working in the country’s northwest. “Less than 10% of the people I deal with have ever used a computer,” he said, adding, “It will be quite a while before the cashless economy penetrates rural China.”

Sourced from China Daily, Twitter, Quartz; additional content by WARC staff