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Last October, China’s central bank implemented mandatory use of business QR codes for all merchants from March 1, phasing out personal QR codes that account for the majority of total mobile payments in China.

But the new rules were met with strong resistance, as commercial versions involved filling out paperwork and paying higher fees. To gauge feedback, the China Payment and Clearing Association announced that merchants can still use personal QR codes for business transactions.

Described as unusual, the reversal of positions creates a dilemma. On the one hand, the Chinese government wanted to crack down on the use of personal QR codes to launder illegal money. On the other hand, the proposed plan will ban the use of personal QR codes for payment – a very popular means that millions of street vendors, small businesses and individuals rely on and which uses a simple scan of a code. -bars to receive or send money.

In response to the government reversal, payment processors confirmed consumers could continue to use personal QR codes to receive payments. The two larger processors, however, offered an improved option – upgrading from personal QR codes to a business code.

These challenges and setbacks are to be expected as China has strong digital ambitions and is on its way to becoming the world’s first cashless society. The government has consistently pushed for the adoption of cashless yuan. Not surprisingly, the most populous country’s digital payment systems and mobile wallets are among the most sophisticated and integrated systems in the world.

And at the heart of it all are QR codes. The convenience that comes with scannable codes cannot be denied. In 2021, QR codes accounted for more than 90% of all mobile payments in China, a January survey by state-owned UnionPay revealed.

As you would expect with anything new, especially any new technology, technical issues have arisen over time. The government recognized loopholes that needed to be closed. Speaking to the public last October, the Central Bank pointed out that while QR codes can boost the efficiency of the micro-economy, often referred to as the “street vendor economy”, where the employment rate is boosted by people setting up outdoor stalls, the use of technology unattended carries inherent risks.

“Some criminals use high returns as bait to trick people into using their own personal payment receipt QR code to move gambling funds, which affects the traceability of gambling-related capital.”

In short, personal QR codes can be a virtual money laundering tool. There are no official statistics on the amount of money laundering carried out using personal QR codes, but media reports show that it could be huge. In one case from May 2020, Hangzhou police arrested an organized crime group that used personal QR codes to launder 50 billion yuan (nearly $8 billion).

The decision to clamp down on QR codes could be drastic, but it says a lot about the trust the Chinese government has these days. Even greater regulations and policies from the Chinese government are in sight.

A good example of this is the new rules to regulate deep synthesis or AI technology, as reported on OpenGov Asia. Artificial intelligence plays a central role in the Chinese economy. Ridesharing apps and thousands of websites are making the most of superior AI algorithms to flesh out better user experiences for their customers. But in some cases, AI has been used to take advantage of consumers.

From March 1 this year, such discriminatory algorithms will be banned. Under the new provisions, companies cannot use personal information to offer users different prices for the same service or product. Algorithms that set prices, control search results, recommend videos and filter content will come under scrutiny.

The AI ​​and QR code regulations were due to be implemented on the first day of March this year. But it looks like new developments have caused the Chinese government to reverse its QR code policy.