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Tim Cook Notes Problems in Breaching Chinese Mobile Payment Market

March 23, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

A new report from no less than Apple’s CEO Tim Cook makes it clear why China is ahead of much of the rest of the world in terms of mobile payments, and it all boils down to a simple two-word phrase: higher willingness.

Basically, Cook’s remarks note, China just wants mobile payments more, and potentially with good reason. That’s leading China to develop mobile payment systems faster and at much higher yields than other countries.

Cook made it plain that inertia in North America and Europe was holding back the pace of development, noting that those folks “get used to credit cards,” and that in turn means merchants aren’t eager to adopt new technology that won’t go used.

Meanwhile, in China—where there’s a much larger number of small businesses afoot—there’s a much greater readiness to step in and embrace those changes that may lead to greater success.

It’s ironic that Cook would be talking like this, given that his own mobile payment system—Apple Pay—isn’t exactly making a lot of headway in China. Indeed, by the time Apple Pay even started looking at the Chinese market, there were already quite a few firms already in play.

Leave aside the issue of Chinese protectionism as a whole, which prohibits many firms from even operating in-country without the help of a firm established and operating already, but Apple just plain got beaten to the punch.

Some might wonder here if China’s political system has a hand in the rapid advance of mobile payments—a mostly communist regime that’s built an Internet censorship mechanism so powerful it’s semi-mockingly referred to as the Great Firewall of China might have an interest in eminently trackable payment systems—or perhaps the sheer size of its country.

After all, India—the immediately next most populous country on Earth—took to mobile payments avidly, especially in the wake of the decommissioning of large portions of its currency.

There are a lot of possible explanations for that “willingness” Cook mentions, whether by coercive force or a desire for greater efficiency. In the end, however, one point remains: China is rapidly developing its mobile payments systems, for good or for ill.