China is quickly adopting financial technology, as both consumers and businesses are drawn to a slew of handy and efficient services.
However, the troves of data generated could become a formidable surveillance tool in the hands of the central government. The changes to society in the smartphone age can already be seen.
In 1921, noted Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa wrote of being mobbed by dozens of rickshaw drivers shortly after stepping off the boat on a visit here.
Over the following century, the basic scene remained the same, despite the shift from ships and hand-pulled carts to planes and taxis.
But recently this has changed, and the throngs of drivers at the airport have diminished.
“Getting customers using ride-hailing apps is more efficient than swarming around tourists behind the backs of the police, and the income is better,” said one unlicensed taxi driver recently.
The driver juggles three smartphones to pick up customers, and takes in several hundred yuan — dozens of dollars — via mobile payment apps every day.
About the author
Li Zhong is a tech journalist who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology. Li is passionate about exploring the ethical and social implications of emerging technologies.