In the 1980s, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was experimenting with openness and economic reforms. Guangdong province, of which Guangzhou is the capital, was chosen to trial out a new approach.

In 2017, Guangzhou remains a bellwether. Guangzhou hopes to be on par with global cities like New York, London and Singapore in the not-so-distant future. In particular, it’s prioritising e-payments, healthcare and transportation data.

GovInsider caught up with Cai Chaolin, the Vice Mayor of Guangzhou, China, to find out more.

Payments and medical services at your fingertips

Photo 4

Cai is applying new technologies to government services to make them more efficient. For example, the metro lines in Guangzhou have moved beyond cash or magnetic card fares. Since 2015, citizens merely need to whip out their phones and use WeChat Pay, a mobile payment service by Tencent’s social media company, to pay their metro fares, Cai says.

The service is popular in China, where it is used to transfer funds to contacts on the chat app or make online purchases with registered vendors. Users can set up a digital wallet by providing their bank account, credit card, passport number and mobile number to the WeChat app. “If I want to send some money, I can very quickly transfer. Five seconds is enough,” Cai adds.

wechat-payment

The app is also used by other Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, for government payments like electricity bills and traffic fines. A Penguin Intelligence study shows that 92% of people in China’s top-tier cities chose mobile payment methods such as WeChat Pay as their preferred way to pay in retail stores.

Citizens can also pay for prescriptions online. The prescriptions will then be sent to the respective patients’ homes. “Medical services are just one click away; you can just stay at home and have all these services come to you,” Cai says, adding that the government started putting “real effort” into this service this year.

Third, the city is strengthening its ties Singapore by building the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, which will house 500,000 people and drive the economic transformation of Guangdong province. The cooperation between both Guangzhou and Singapore over the years have “enabled the cities to pursue more meaningful projects together that enrich [their] economies”, Cai says.

The city will contain clusters of knowledge-based industries, such as new-generation ICT, medical and biotechnology, and intellectual property protection and service. With the first phase of the city recently completed, the remainder will be developed over the next 15 to 20 years, according to a factsheet.

“We should share with each other, so we can achieve a win-win situation, and everyone can benefit from us,” he says.

Cai’s goal for Guangzhou is simple: “to build a smart, digital city so our citizens’ work, as well as lives, will be more efficient”. It remains to be seen if, 20 years from now, Guangzhou will hold its own on the world stage—reminiscent of the important role it once played with western trade in China.

Cai was in Singapore on 27 April to host the preview roadshow of the 2017 Guangzhou Fortune Global Forum.

Image by Eugene LimCC BY 2.0 and WeChat