(Yicai Global) March 22 -- China's central bank is cutting access restrictions to its CNY169 trillion (USD27 trillion) online payments market as the country looks to further open up its financial sector to foreign companies.
The move will allow overseas providers to offer payment services in China for domestic and cross-border transactions, the People's Bank of China said in a statement. The companies that hope to obtain a payments license will first need to set up a foreign-backed enterprise on the Chinese mainland, it added.
China has set itself the goal of further opening up the world's second-largest economy, particularly in the area of financial services. The country will be bolder in opening up the sector, Zhou Xiaochuan, who retired this week as governor of the central bank, said on March 9. "We have studied most of the policies and will look for opportunities to advance the progress," he said.
A unified access standard and regulation over online payment processors at home and abroad can generate a fair market environment, a PBOC official said, adding that this would also improve the quality of service and accelerate China's opening up.
Though there are more than 260 companies licensed to operate third-party payment businesses in China, the market is dominated by two key players: WeChat Pay, run by Tencent Holdings Ltd., and Alipay, owned by Ant Financial Services Group, the financial affiliate of Jack Ma's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
Market entrants from overseas will need to use business and disaster recovery systems that are safe, standardized and capable of independently handling transactions while abiding by Chinese laws, such as storing personal and financial information within the country, PBOC said. Foreign providers will also need to meet minimum capital requirements and investor and anti-money laundering measures outlined by the central bank.