CHINA - Embraces Facial Payment Tech

Arno Froese

No cash, no cards, no wallet, and no smartphones: China’s shoppers are increasingly purchasing goods with just a turn of their heads as the country embraces facial payment technology.

The software is already widely used, often to monitor citizens―it has been credited with nabbing jaywalkers and catching criminals. But authorities have come under fire for using it to crack down and monitor dissent, particularly in China’s surveillance-heavy region of Xinjiang.

Despite the concerns over data security and privacy, consumers seem unperturbed as facial recognition payment hits the high streets.

Alipay―the financial arm of ecommerce giant Alibaba―has been leading the charge in China with devices already in 100 cities. The firm is predicting enormous growth in the sector and recently launched an upgrade of its “Smile-to-Pay” system, using a machine roughly the size of an iPad. Alipay will spend three billion yuan ($420 million) over three years on implementing the technology.

Tencent, which runs the WeChat app with 600 million users, unveiled its new facial payment machine called “Frog Pro” in August, while a growing number of start-ups are trying to tap into the burgeoning industry.

At the IFuree self-service supermarket in Tianjin, a 3D camera scans the faces of those entering the store―measuring width, height and depth of the faces―then another quick scan again at check-out.

“It’s convenient because you can buy things very quickly,” says retiree Zhang Liming after using facial payment for her groceries. “It’s different from the payment in the traditional supermarket, in which you have to wait in the checkout line and it’s very troublesome,” she argues.

“Much of the smart retail trend is company-driven for two ends in particular: to prevent shoplifting and to get better data on consumer preferences for analytics and marketing,” says Jeffrey Ding, researcher at the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford University. The technology also feeds into a broader state drive in China for smart tech and Artificial Intelligence.

Supporters of the technology wave aside privacy concerns.

“The facial recognition technology helps to protect our privacy,” explains IFuree engineer Li Dongliang.

“In the traditional way, it’s very dangerous to enter the password if someone stands beside you. Now we can complete the payment with our faces, which helps us secure our account,” he insists.

-www.koreatimes.co.kr, 12 September 2019

Arno's commentary

With restrictions and tariffs in place, communist China is forced to develop its own technology. When it comes to success, there is simply no question; the WeChat app garners 600 million users. Logically, that’s only the beginning. Here we must recall that America’s success was built on the masses, while European nations were strictly segregated by borders, customs controls, financial barriers, and smaller monetary areas. The US outnumbered any European nation. Moreover, China’s economy is centrally controlled by the communist party and has masterfully avoided military conflicts; instead, it has been building a global infrastructure: roads, trains, airports, harbors, etc.

National Public Radio has this to say:
Chinese companies have invested in strategic Israeli infrastructure, from shipping to electricity to public transportation, and they have bought up millions of dollars in stakes in cutting-edge technology startups.
-www.npr.org, 11 September 2019

As predicted in Scripture, the world will and must unite, and this can only be done if the major nations have achieved equal footing. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that China will become the world’s leading economy.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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