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Cash, Liu could see, had been largely replaced by two smartphone apps: Alipay and We Chat Pay.

One day, at a vegetable market, he watched a woman his mother’s age pull out her phone to pay for her groceries. To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. Alipay’s slogan summed up the experience: “Trust makes it simple.”Alipay turned out to be so convenient that Liu began using it multiple times a day, starting first thing in the morning, when he ordered breakfast through a food delivery app.

Their chief innovation was using computer­-driven statistical ­analysis to translate people’s personal details and financial history into a simple score, predicting how likely they were to pay back loans.

One day a new icon appeared on Liu’s Alipay home screen. The name, like that of Alipay’s parent company, evoked the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, in which the words magically unseal a cave full of treasure.

When Liu touched the icon, he was greeted by an image of the Earth.

The higher the score, the better your credit.” Further down was a button that read, in clean white characters, “Start my credit journey.” He tapped.electrical engineer named Bill Fair and a mathematician named Earl Isaac started a small tech company out of a San Francisco apartment.

They named it Fair, Isaac and Co., but the business eventually came to be known, for short, as FICO.

He booked doctors’ appointments there, skipping the chaotic lines for which Chinese hospitals are famous.

He added friends in Alipay’s built-in social network.Lazarus Liu moved home to China after studying logistics in the United Kingdom for three years, he quickly noticed that something had changed: Everyone paid for everything with their phones.At Mc Donald’s, the convenience store, even at mom-and-pop restaurants, his friends in Shanghai used mobile payments.He could have paid his electricity, gas, and internet bills in Alipay’s City Service section.Like many young Chinese who had become enamored of the mobile payment services offered by Alipay and We Chat, Liu stopped bringing his wallet when he left the house.During the past 30 years, by contrast, China has grown to become the world’s second largest economy without much of a functioning credit system at all.

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