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As regulators circle, China’s fintech giants put the emphasis on tech

FOR those still trying to work out what exactly “fintech” involves, we are sorry to bring you this update from China, a world leader in mixing finance with technology. Fintech is passe; the hot new thing is “techfin”. This ungainly portmanteau was coined by Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, an e-commerce giant, who announced on September 10th that he plans to step down in a year’s time (see article). It is not mere semantics, but indicative of the way that China’s fintech upstarts—firms that have excited investors, frightened banks and attracted legions of users—are adjusting as their reach is limited by regulators.The landscape of Chinese fintech is dominated by two players: Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba, and Tencent, best known for WeChat, its social-media network. Ant is estimated to be worth $150bn, only a little less than HSBC, putting it among the world’s most valuable financial firms. Tencent’s financial services are wrapped inside Tencent Holdings, which has a $400bn market capitalisation. They will, if left unchecked, grow much bigger. China’s government must now decide whether to try to slow their rise.
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