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That's not accurate. I was just in Chengdu and Shenzhen last month and paid almost exclusively in cash everywhere I went. In fact for smaller vendors and street food, cash is the only option. Many vendors also accept WeChat payments (which seems to be the most common form of payment, at least for casual to mid-range transactions by people in my peer group), and UnionPay network credit cards are also widely accepted. Western credit/debit cards tend to work only at more upscale/modern/larger vendors. From what I've seen of Chinese commerce in various cities, I would be very very surprised if China went anywhere near cashless anytime soon. Cash seems to be a bigger part of the culture there than in the USA.

You do have to show government ID to get a cell phone or purchase long-distance train tickets. Also checking into a higher end hotel. And since using public Wi-Fi requires you to authenticate with your Chinese phone number, that's also effectively linked to your ID. There are many aspects of Chinese society that are easily trackable by the government, but commerce does not seem to be one of them, at least from what I've seen.

Thanks for the personal experience! So my impression was wrong. I'm happy about that.

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