• UnionPay eyes to compete with Alipay and WeChat Wallet with its own payment tool.

UnionPay eyes to compete with Alipay and WeChat Wallet with its own payment tool. (Photo : Reuters)

Chinese bank card company UnionPay is aiming to expand its presence by promoting economic and personal trade along the “Belt and Road Initiative,” boosting its collaboration with major banks in key countries.

The firm has already expanded the acceptance network of its UnionPay card to over 50, among the 64 countries, covered by the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

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After UnionPay announced its trade initiatives, frequent exchanges--economic and personnel--between the country and Kazakhstan can be seen, according UnionPay International chief cooperation officer David Lee.

UnionPay International, a subsidiary of the China UnionPay centered on global businesses, stated that it is dedicated in giving diverse support and services for the said initiative. In fact, it has already inked a deal with Kazakhstan's second-largest commercial bank when it comes to assets, the Halyk Bank.

The two financial firms have agreed to further strengthen their ties, venturing in more areas such as local card issuance, express money, online payment and monetary assistance to Kazakh scholars who will go to China for education purposes.

Currently, UnionPay cards are accepted in about 70 percent of the automated teller machines and in more than 50 percent of the merchants in Kazakhstan.

Halyk Bank president Umut Shayakhmetova stated that it has issued nearly 200,000 co-branded cards with the Chinese bank card company. By the end of 2016, it aims to issue over a million pieces of such cards, which is already a "big number" in the area.

Of the co-branded cards, over 90 percent were issued to local residents--employees of Chinese firms, tourists, entrepreneurs and students from Kazakhstan to China.

Shayakhmetova said that since the cards are chip-based, security is ensured for the payment system.

"Being the closest neighbor of China on the new Silk Road, we are developing more and more banking and financial initiatives," she remarked.

"We are talking about opening the Khorgas land port on the China-Kazakhstan border, for Halyk Bank to enter Chinese territory and Chinese banks to go to Kazakh territory. It will strengthen and promote more economic activities between the two countries," the Halyk Bank president added.

In 2014, payments using the said cards exceeded 150 million yuan in China, aiding in the country's foreign trade expansion, UnionPay International CEO Cai Jianbo noted.

"We are supporting the 'Belt and Road Initiative' by providing quality payment services for economic and personnel exchanges between China and Kazakhstan. And we support two-way communications rather than single-way," Cai enthused.

Moreover, the China UnionPay subsidiary is also crafting yuan and Kazakh tenge products to allow more Chinese and Kazakh nationals to use their own currencies, avoiding money exchange loss in the process.