China's Ant shuts down online mutual-aid service amid tougher regulations

Asian Tech Press (Dec 29) -- The world's largest mutual-aid programme Xianghubao, launched by Ant Group, Alibaba's financial affiliate, has formally ceased operation since Wednesday.

On the evening of December 28, Xianghubao issued an announcement saying, "Significant changes have occurred in the mutual-aid industry, and after careful consideration and discussion to protect the rights and interests of all members in the longer term, it will cease operations at 12 a.m. BST on Jan. 28, 2022."

The announcement states that effective immediately, members will no longer participate in mutual sharing of medical costs. And the two apportionment payments originally scheduled for the announcement date and January 2022 will all be borne by the platform.

Xianghubao, since its launch in 2018, had been hugely popular as a supplement to insurance due to the cheapness of the apportionment. With the strong promotion of Ant's mobile wallet app Alipay,the number of users exceeded 100 million in November 2019.

Although people have been withdrawing from the programme due to the growing cost of apportionment, nearly 75 million users were still hanging on to it when Alipay announced its shutdown.

Since January this year, China's major online mutual-aid platforms have been shutting down, including mutual aid programmes run by Chinese tech companies such as Waterdrop Inc., Meituan and

Industry insiders generally believe that unclear platform positioning and unsustainable platform operations are the two main reasons for the shutdown of these platforms.

Alibaba-backed Alipay announced the shutdown of its mutual-aid programme Xianghubao in late 2021. Insiders say Xianghubao is also feeling intense regulatory pressure as other online mutual-aid platforms shut down one after another.

After losing a legal battle against a well-known Chinese private media outlet, Alipay finally made the decision to shut down its healthcare mutual-aid programme Xianghubao.

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