Digital Media: Life-Changing Online

Real Money, Real Me: Life Told by Third-party Mobile Payment Platforms

  • Rong Huang Peking University
Keywords: Third-party mobile payment; identity; Alipay; WeChat pay


Platforms are constantly shaping online identities. The third-party mobile payment solution is one of the latest technological innovations that have redefined how we lead our lives today. The popularity of third-party mobile payment in China allows platforms greater data power to present users’ identities either as individual consumers or as members of a consumption community. This article first introduces the background and data features of third-party mobile payment platforms. It then concentrates on the two dominant platforms, Alipay and WeChat Pay, to demonstrate their different monetary approaches to user identities, characterized respectively by personal finance and by collective belonging. Finally it will discuss in brief further implications, including the possibility of a unified on/offline identity, the identification of an online user, and the issue of privacy protection.

Author Biography

Rong Huang, Peking University

I started this article during my visit at King’s College London for the 2016–2017 academic year. Many people must be acknowledged for making it possible. A preliminary version was presented at the IABA-Europe conference in June 2017. I must thank members from my panel for their constructive comments. Also I am particularly grateful to Clare Brant and Robert Gallagher, for their enlightening editorial input. Last but not least, I am much indebted to Craig Howes, whose generous support and meticulous suggestions have accompanied this article from its infancy. Quite a number of materials that I use in this article are in Chinese, though some of them appear bilingually. I did all the translations unless otherwise indicated.

Digital Media: Life-Changing Online