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Its main competitor, We Chat, belongs to the social and gaming giant Tencent.Alipay and We Chat are less like individual apps than entire ecosystems.Cash, Liu could see, had been largely replaced by two smartphone apps: Alipay and We Chat Pay.One day, at a vegetable market, he watched a woman his mother’s age pull out her phone to pay for her groceries. To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. Alipay’s slogan summed up the experience: “Trust makes it simple.”Alipay turned out to be so convenient that Liu began using it multiple times a day, starting first thing in the morning, when he ordered breakfast through a food delivery app.

Before FICO, credit bureaus relied in part on gossip culled from people’s landlords, neighbors, and local grocers.

One day a new icon appeared on Liu’s Alipay home screen. The name, like that of Alipay’s parent company, evoked the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, in which the words magically unseal a cave full of treasure.

When Liu touched the icon, he was greeted by an image of the Earth.

If you live in the United States, you are by now accustomed to relinquishing your data to corporations.

Credit card companies know when you run up bar tabs or buy sex toys.