It appears that China is not immune to the global
economic downturn. Figures for the third quarter of 2008 from the
country’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), show
that the amount of non-cash payments declined for the first

The amount of money involved in non-cash
payments, including commercial papers and bank cards, was around
CNY157.3 trillion ($22.97 trillion) in the third quarter, down 8.3
percent compared to the year-ago period, the PBoC said, proving
that the country’s economy is slowing down. Commercial papers, used
mostly by small and medium-sized businesses, accounted for the bulk
of the drop.

Bank card transactions continued their
upward trajectory with the amount of money involved rising by 4.1
percent compared to the year-ago period.

According to the PBoC, transactions using
bank cards accounted for 25.7 percent of China’s total retail sales
in the third quarter of 2008, 1.8 percent higher than in the second
quarter of 2008. The average spend on each bank card was CNY592 in
the third quarter, up 0.7 percent from the second quarter, while
spending for each transaction was CNY1,435, down 8.7 percent from
the second quarter.

Chinese banks issued 1.6 billion debit
cards as of the third quarter, up 16 percent on a year ago, but
slowing by 11.7 percent, the central bank said, which it attributed
to Chinese banks reining in the number of unsolicited debit cards
issued. However, credit card usage continues to rise. As of the end
of the third quarter of 2008, 131.5 million credit cards had been
issued, a year-on-year increase of 5.9 percent.

Separately, China UnionPay (CUP), the
country’s national bank card network, released its own figures
showing that Chinese CUP cardholders spent CNY59 billion in 89.17
million bank card transactions between 1 January and 3 January
2009. The number of transactions was up 55.8 percent year-on-year,
whilst value was up 70.5 percent, the bank card alliance added.

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As of 31 December 2008, retail outlets
attached to CUP’s bank card network numbered more than 1.1 million
nationwide, with some 1.7 million point of sale terminals and
160,000 ATMs.