China rings in the New Year with millions of digital red envelopes

China rings in the New Year with millions of digital red envelopes

Web giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have been fighting it out to win the Chinese New Year red envelopes battle, enticing hundreds of millions of people to take the practice of gifting cash digital.

Physical red envelopes containing 'lucky money' are traditionally given to children and single people by elders to mark the New Year but in recent years, digital envelopes have begun to take over.

On Sunday Alibaba's Alipay handed over around $120 million to users through its sponsorship of the Spring Festival Gala TV variety show celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Monkey.

Meanwhile, rival Tencent says that its WeChat mobile messaging app was used by 420 million people to send virtual red envelopes. During one second, shortly after midnight, 409,000 envelopes were sent through the app.

Baidu also tried to win over users to its mobile payments app with a huge, $900 million giveaway in the form of coupons providing discounts on services.

It wasn't only commerce behemoths getting in on the action, according to the Financial Times the communist party gave away a modest $45,000 in virtual red envelopes via Alipay in a bid to drive traffic to a social media page.

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