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Reference No. 15/001C Publication Year 2015
Author(s) Amy Yip, Yihong Yao
Company China UnionPay
Industry Banks and Diversified Financials
Geographic setting China, Worldwide
Functional Area Strategy and General Management, Economics and Business Policy, Marketing


In March 2002, UnionPay, China’s first and only bankcard association was established.  In November 2012, the establishment of UnionPay International, supporting UnionPay’s overseas businesses and cross-border transactions for bankcards issued in China, accelerated the Chinese bankcard monopoly’s globalization progress. By January 2015, China UnionPay expanded its network to more than 150 countries and regions, and had about 400 domestic and international partners.

Unlike other companies, which globalized to secure overseas business opportunities and customers, UnionPay globalized its business to provide cross-border card payment services for Chinese cardholders, often Chinese tourists visiting countries and regions overseas.  The number of overseas-issued UnionPay cards in circulation and the value of the transactions made with these cards were much lower than those of UnionPay’s overseas competitors, Visa and MasterCard.

Learning Objective

Students will be required to perform a UnionPay SWOT analysis and then analyze the essence and rationale behind UnionPay's global strategy by using Model of Foreign Market Entries (Mike Peng, 2014, Gengage Learning).  Students could also explain UnionPay’s global strategy by applying Gupta’s five imperatives to globalize (Gupta  et al., 2008, Wiley).  Students will then be required predict whether China UnionPay, a monopoly in China’s closed bankcard market, could compete with Visa and MasterCard in overseas market and realize genuine globalization?

Suggested Questions:

1. Summarize China UnionPay’s evolution, its operations and its unique globalization strategy.
2. Compare China UnionPay’s operations and globalization strategy with those of Visa and MasterCard.
3. Why were China UnionPay’s operations and globalization strategy different from those of its global counterparts?
4. What challenges faced UnionPay and what competitive advantages did it have in China and the global bankcard market? Perform a UnionPay SWOT analysis.
5. Could UnionPay, a monopoly in China, compete globally and achieve genuine globalization?

This case was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (UGC/IDS12/14).