China to launch e-ID cards for citizens via phone QR codes

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A user in China's eastern Zhejiang province shows her e-ID card. Photo: Xinhua

China’s ubiquitous mobile payment is killing cash, now that a scan and a tap to settle bills has become commonplace.

The Chinese government has been quick to adopt smartphone-based technology to facilitate and streamline its services, from online enquiries to a host of e-government channels and apps, usually offered on popular social networking apps, that do not require a user to show up in person at a counter or queue up to hand in forms or applications.  

Now the provincial government of Zhejiang, a pioneer in e-governance nurturing its cluster of thriving tech startups, has launched a pilot scheme of e-ID cards in collaboration with AliPay. 

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To apply: go to a self-service kiosk at a local public security bureau, scan your face and within minutes an e-ID card and unique QR code is sent to your phone. Photo: Xinhua

Xinhua says people can go to a machine at a local public security bureau, have their face scanned, before answering terms and conditions and very shortly an e-ID card – equivalent to a physical card with the same legal validity – and a unique QR-code will be sent to their AliPay account.

China requires its citizens to produce ID cards for verification when checking-in at a hotel, boarding a train or plane or accessing government services.  

Now with the e-ID card, a user can just tap an AliPay app to show their QR code for similar verification, while leaving their wallet or physical card at home.    

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A user scans her e-ID card’s QR code to access government services. Photo: Xinhua

Losing your phone is unlikely to result in loss of your ID card or related personal data, according to Xinhua, as every step from launching the AliPay app to obtaining a QR code requires biometric authentication like your fingerprint or a face scanning, using readers and cameras on your phone.

People can login on to AliPay app with your fingerprint and scan your face to transfer all information and settings to your new device.

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