China’s internet is quickly becoming real-name only. First there was the news that all microblogs would change to real-name systems (and that it’ll cost them). The we saw the expansion of real-name ticketing requirements from high-speed trains to all trains and even some buses. Heck, we’ve even heard about real-name registration being required for birth control!
Anyhow, it’s time to add online payment systems (like Alibaba’s Alipay) to the list, as the Beijing News is reporting that China’s central bank has published a draft of proposed legislation that would require providers of online payment systems to get keep the state ID number of all of their users on file. In China, that’s what real-name registration refers to; users can choose whatever username they would like but that username must be tied to their ID number so that if necessary they can be held legally accountable for their actions.
The proposed legislation was published yesterday by the central bank as part of the request-for-comments step during which many new Chinese laws are published and lawmakers solicit opinions about the draft. In this case, while this regulation may see minor adjustments, it seems likely that sooner or later it will be enacted and online payment systems will join everyone else in going real-name.
Of course, that’s not as significant a change as it is for, say, microblogging services, since online payment accounts are typically tied to Chinese bank accounts, which are (of course) real-name only. But it is yet another step in the real-name direction. It seems pretty clear that within a few years, you’re not going to be able to do much online in China without having your real identity attached to it.