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February 6, 2017

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High-tech ‘red envelopes’ all the rage now

CHINESE exchanged billions of electronic “red envelopes” over the Lunar New Year holiday, as more people turned to modern technology to perform the ancient tradition of handing out cash.

For centuries parents, relatives and employers have distributed red paper envelopes containing money, a practice known as “hongbao,” to celebrate the dawn of the new year. But tech-savvy givers in China are increasingly opting to transfer money via their smartphones rather than go to the trouble of buying envelopes and handing them out.

Users of WeChat sent around 46 billion electronic red packets, digital versions of traditional envelopes stuffed with cash, via the Chinese mobile social platform over the Lunar New Year period, Xinhua new agency reported on Saturday.

Internet giants such as Alibaba Group Holding have promoted the use of virtual red packets to grow business in the country’s booming mobile payment market.

The number of digital red packets sent via WeChat, owned by Alibaba rival Tencent Holdings Ltd, rose 43 percent in the period over January 27 to February 1 compared with a year earlier, according to Xinhua.

People in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei led the trend, while South Koreans were WeChat’s most active hongbao senders outside the Chinese mainland, Xinhua said.

WeChat also said those born in the 1980s and 1990s sent and received the most hongbaos during the holiday and this year men gave more red packets to men than to women.

Since its launch in 2011, WeChat has become China’s most popular mobile social media platform. Besides sending text, audio and video message for free, users can also use the WeChat digital wallet to pay utility bills, make donations and buy tickets.


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