I was travelling in China for 9, 10 days recently, and I can see those two payments method everywhere. From the small food stall to KFC, one of those two methods are widely accepted, and in many cases cash transactions are very rare. I noticed this trend about 1.5 years ago during my China trip too, at that time I saw some promotions around those new payment methods. This time I saw many promotions too, such as discount to points (reward) system.
Just use my own shopping experience as an example. I purposefully did not get a local mobile phone number this time, which in other words, this disqualified me from using those new payment methods. I did not want the hassle of getting a new mobile phone number, with or without data plan, and then have to give up the number later. Because my trip is really a 9 day trip. I noticed in most “free” or public wifi hotspots, the setup is such that they send a validation code to the mobile phone. For me I can live without because my phone has international data roaming, in other words, I still get to wechat on the go. But I cannot get to those free public wifi hotspots, at a bookstore when I tried to sign up to be their member via wechat, I realized my lack of local phone number is preventing me from doing that, or getting the discount. Same thing in KFC. I did noticed some China Unionpay (flash pay, or its own contactless payment methods, like masterpass or visa checkout, if you will) promotion along with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but it’s very obvious they are not in the same magnitude as Alipay or wechat pay. There is news saying that China central bank is regulating Alipay and wechat pay, such as limit the amount of transaction. It will be interesting to observe though, we know Unionpay is very much state owned, while the other 2 are in theory private owned. But all in all, this is a very difficult market for Mastercard and Visa to crack.
Fully disclosure: as of this writing, yours truly works for Mastercard. And this article is just my personal opinion, not my employer’s.
PS, in order to get a local mobile phone number, one usually needs a local identification card. I am not sure how foreigners can get one, via their passport. I assume there is a legal/legit way to get that.
Last but not least, my friend in Ningbo, used Alipay app to rent a car (I assume it’s similar to Uber), to pick me up at Ningbo railway station. He said he even sold his car recently, due to the convenience of car-rent app, public transportation, and the desire to walk/cycle (again bike sharing here, needs a phone and app) more instead of trying to finding a parking spot for his car (and the cost of maintain a car). When we got off the car, the payment is automatic just like Uber.