Ant Financial: Impact of China’s 2016 Clearinghouse Regulation

This is the second part of a two part series on Ant Financial. Click here to read the first part on Ant Financial’s history, ecosystem, and growth.

In a 2017 interview, Jack Ma stated very emphatically, “We have to step ahead of the regulators; we have to. Otherwise, we go nowhere.”1 This game of leapfrog between third party payment applications and regulators has helped served the Chinese market by letting the market decide the future of finance. Chinese fintech has clearly benefited from the boldness of companies such as Ant Financial and Tencent setting bold paths ahead of regulators, but now that regulators are getting involved, it is beneficial for the future of competition, mobile payments, and Chinese financial markets. In this blog post, will shift my focus to the implementation and effects of the 2016 clearinghouse regulation.

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Understanding Ant Financial: History, Ecosystem, and Growth

Alibaba founder Jack Ma famously professed that should the government desire, he would deliver Alipay to the state.1 He also said that because the state banks would not change on their own, Alipay would change them. What connects these two statements is the power that Ant Financial has accumulated by becoming an indispensable part of over 500 million citizens’ lives. It’s not beyond Jack Ma’s imagination that the overwhelming power of his private company would cause integration with the state to be inevitable.

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An Afternoon in Jiufen (一個下午在九份)

For our trip to Taipei, we were essentially given two days of freedom. Round trip transportation, a hostel, and tickets to the top of Taipei 101 were provided. The rest of the weekend we could schedule as we wished. This was great because I had spent five days in Taipei when I arrived in Taiwan, now I could venture elsewhere.

I headed to Jiufen, a mountainous area by the sea. During the late 19th century Jiufen’s population and wealth exploded as they experienced a gold rush, now it was mainly known as a pretty tourist town. Everyone knows it as the town featured on the movie Spirited Away.

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Pictures from Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Fo Guang Shan is the largest monastery in Taiwan, ground-breaking took place nearly 50 years ago. The Kaohsiung campus is sprawling, featuring now only shrines but also publishing houses, translation centers, and its own university. It’s a massive compound, but it doesn’t stop in Taiwan. Also known as the International Buddhist Progress Society, it is in over 170 countries and has a huge worldwide influence.

Our trip to Fo Guang Shan Monastery was more of a two-day guided tour than an actual temple-stay. It was a peaceful way to spend a weekend away from studying, the main highlight being our traditional dinner. Following are some of my favorite photos from our two days at Fo Guang Shan and Buddha Memorial Centre.

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Fo Guang Shan Monastery Traditional Dinner

For thousands of people, Fo Guang Shan is and will always be a holy place of worship. It also is also a tourist destination with a sense of commerciality and comfortableness. Five years ago I took part in a Korean temple-stay, which was bare-bones. At Fo Guang Shan I stayed on extremely comfortable, thick mattresses instead of a wooden floor. We woke up after sunrise instead of 4 am and we omitted the 108 bows activity. At this Buddhist temple opulence stood out to me, particularly strong presence of air conditioning with doors left open, spilling it outside.

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Jingzaijiao Sea Salt Field Photography 井仔腳瓦盤鹽田

The Jingzaijiao Salt Fields are a cultural relic built back in 1818. They are unique in that they are tile-paved; back during the Qing dynasty they came up with the brilliant idea of preventing salt from attaching to the soil by manually laying out broken pottery pieces onto the salt fields. This innovation led to clearer salt being mined.

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