Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Alibaba, China's e-commerce behemoth, is making new inroads in the U.S. and Canada, adding its mobile payment system to thousands of stores — convenience, drug stores and other shops — frequented by Americans of all income levels.

What's happening: Alipay insists that it is not after American customers, instead seeking to serve Chinese tourists, students and business people who come in droves to North America every year.

  • But while its partnerships — with chains like 7-11 and Walgreens — may serve a lot of Chinese visitors, these stores' main clientele is ordinary locals, who now will become acquainted with the Alipay name.

The big picture: Alibaba is enticing U.S. businesses with Alipay, which allows users to pay by scanning a QR code on the app. It has more than 700 million Chinese users. It is telling U.S. companies that if they add the system, they'll get a big piece of the tens of billions dollars Chinese nationals spend in the U.S. every year.

Alipay already has 4 million U.S. users and works with luxury brands like Lacoste and Rebecca Minkoff, and can be used at duty-free shops and Vegas hotels — places frequented by Chinese tourists.

But the move this week into 7,000 Walgreens, and earlier into 7-Eleven in Canada, is part of a separate strategy, says Humphrey Ho, managing director of the Hylink Group. "The real play here is for the students, the new immigrants, and the people here to work for just a few years," Ho says.

  • There's a massive market of Chinese nationals who are in the U.S. longer than tourists, but would still like to use Alipay instead of applying for a credit card.

My thought bubble: Though it's possible that Alibaba could follow Japan's strategy from the 1960s and 1970s and break open the American market, it seems to me that Alipay's expansion will be limited to Chinese nationals for the foreseeable future.

  • As a Walgreens shopper, I'm not sure just seeing that Alipay is an option would make me want to use it. Americans love their credit cards way too much.
  • Plus, it's unlikely that Alibaba will ever get approval from the U.S. to take on the role of a bank and dole out mobile wallets. The privacy concerns are too big, Ho says.

Go deeper

7 hours ago - Podcasts

Facebook boycott organizers share details on their Zuckerberg meeting

Facebook is in the midst of the largest ad boycott in its history, with nearly 1,000 brands having stopped paid advertising in July because they feel Facebook hasn't done enough to remove hate speech from its namesake app and Instagram.

Axios Re:Cap spoke with the boycott's four main organizers, who met on Tuesday with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives, to learn why they organized the boycott, what they took from the meeting, and what comes next.

Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Civil rights leaders blasted Facebook's top executives shortly after speaking with them on Tuesday, saying that the tech giant's leaders "failed to meet the moment" and were "more interested in having a dialogue than producing outcomes."

Why it matters: The likely fallout from the meeting is that the growing boycott of Facebook's advertising platform, which has reached nearly 1000 companies in less than a month, will extend longer than previously anticipated, deepening Facebook's public relations nightmare.

Steve Scalise PAC invites donors to fundraiser at Disney World

Photo: Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s PAC is inviting lobbyists to attend a four-day “Summer Meeting” at Disney World's Polynesian Village in Florida, all but daring donors to swallow their concern about coronavirus and contribute $10,000 to his leadership PAC.

Why it matters: Scalise appears to be the first House lawmakers to host an in-person destination fundraiser since the severity of pandemic became clear. The invite for the “Summer Meeting” for the Scalise Leadership Fund, obtained by Axios, makes no mention of COVID-19.