(Yicai Global) Feb. 12 -- The international arm of Chinese financial services provider China UnionPay Co. issued 20 million new cards last year as the value of transactions rose almost 40 percent.
There were almost 90 million international UnionPay cards in circulation as of the end of 2017, UnionPay International Co. said on its website. The firm has issued more than 25 million to Belt and Road countries and become the leading bank card brand in Laos, Mongolia and Myanmar, or Burma.
The company's cards are now the main payment method for tourists traveling to China from other countries, especially those along the Belt and Road. Pakistani cardholders in the country made twice as many transactions last year, compared with 2016, and foreign holders have been spending more on their cards than Chinese tourists abroad since last September.
Often compared with the ancient Silk Road, the One Belt, One Road initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. It is a grand 30- to 40-year plan for a vast infrastructure and trade route boasting a major network of railroads, highways, ports and pipelines embracing the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.
UnionPay International has issued more than four million cards in Pakistan, making it the second-largest foreign card provider. In Russia, more than 10 banks have issued some 1.3 million cards. Its increasing presence is proving fruitful for Chinese businesses. Foreign holders used their cards in all of China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities last year, with Hangzhou, Chengdu and Xiamen witnessing the largest increases in transaction volume.