China‘s Communist Party has found a new way to court technology-savvy web users, setting phrases by President Xi Jinping as the password for electronic “red envelopes” of online cash offered ahead of the Lunar New Year.
In China, elderly family members traditionally give children red envelopes of cash, known as lucky money, during the holiday — which starts on Monday — to wish them good fortune in the coming year.
With Chinese e-commerce booming, Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba both enable users to send lucky money electronically, and the Communist Party has jumped on the bandwagon, teaming up with both the companies.
A total of 300,000 yuan ($50,000) is being made available over three days on Alipay, the online payment service of Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma, one of China‘s richest men.
To stand a chance of collecting it, users must get a passphrase from an account owned by the ruling party’s powerful organisation department and run by the official Xinhua news agency on WeChat, Tencent’s hugely popular instant messaging service.
Friday’s set phrase was “You will earn what you worked for,” following “As long as we persevere, dreams will come true,” on Thursday — both of them from Xi’s 2016 New Year speech, repeatedly broadcast on television nationwide on December 31.
“Every effort you make will be rewarded twice as much in 2016,” the organisation department, which is in charge of Communist Party members’ promotions and demotions, said on the WeChat account on Friday.
Ma’s firm was contributing to the effort, it signalled, saying that the money “had nothing to do with party membership dues” and was instead “raised by Xinhua’s website and Alipay on their own”.
The statement had been read more than 100,000 times by midday. But Friday’s money was all gone within seconds of becoming available at 11am.
Users were sceptical, with one poster on China‘s Twitter-like Weibo describing the exercise as “weird”, adding: “Party and government agencies just need to do their own job well.”
Another asked: “Did anyone actually get one?”