SHANGHAI Nov 30 China's state-backed electronic
payment services giant, China UnionPay, launched an
international arm tasked with speeding its expansion overseas,
heating up competition with rivals such as Visa Inc and
The move underscores UnionPay's growing global ambitions,
and follows a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that China
discriminates against foreign card companies by favouring
UnionPay in the home market.
UnionPay, China's dominant payment card supplier, is looking
to expand the number of shops and outlets overseas that will
accept its cards and also grow the number of partner banks
issuing UnionPay-branded cards. The move would increase its
business, assist inbound and outbound travellers and is also
aimed at promoting the use of the yuan as a global currency.
"UnionPay's internationalism provides convenience to Chinese
residents and companies going overseas. Also it provides a new
payment option for overseas residents and companies," Liu Shiyu,
deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, said at the
opening ceremony of UnionPay's unit.
Over 70 million Chinese travelled overseas in 2011, up 22
percent from a year earlier, according to government data.
UnionPay has already formed partnerships with groups such as
HSBC Holdings Plc and National Australia Bank Ltd
to promote its cards in other countries.
The tie-ups have intensified competition in the
international market between UnionPay and global players such as
Visa and MasterCard, who have been lobbying China to open its
domestic bank card market to foreigners.
The WTO ruled in July that UnionPay had a monopoly on yuan
payment cards issued and used in China, but rejected a U.S.
claim that the firm was an "across-the-board monopoly supplier"
for all transactions denominated in yuan.
China said it wouldn't appeal the decision and promised to
push forward with reform and opening up in the electronic
Since its first overseas expansion in 2004, UnionPay has
moved into 135 countries and regions, partnering with 8 million
overseas merchants, and has issued 15 million UnionPay-branded
cards in about 30 countries and regions.
The newly established unit, UnionPay International Co,
already counts 60 domestic and foreign banks as its members.