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Uber enables global e-hailing through Alipay to fend against Lyft/Didi alliance

Now Chinese riders can use Alipay to hail and pay for an Uber all over the world.

ChinaFotoPress via Getty

Starting today, Uber riders from China won’t have to worry about language barriers or currency when traveling outside of the country.

Now, riders will be able to pay for and hail a ride in the Alipay app in the more than 400 cities in which Uber operates. It’s an extension of Uber’s existing partnership with the company, which initially only allowed passengers in China to pay for their rides using Alipay.

The move comes just a few weeks after Lyft and China’s Didi launched a similar integration that allows Didi riders to hail a Lyft in the U.S. using the Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) app, and vice versa. That partnership is part of a larger global ride-hail alliance that also includes South East Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola.

The clear winner in this entire situation is Alipay’s affiliate company, Alibaba. That’s because the Chinese e-commerce company is playing both sides of the fence — Alibaba is an investor in both Didi and Lyft, and Ant Financial, which operates Alipay, has had this partnership with Uber since 2014.

It’s certainly true that Alibaba has a higher stake in Lyft and Didi beating out Uber, but the transportation industry isn’t a zero-sum game. Since there’s room for both sides to coexist, Alibaba can afford to put bets on Didi and Lyft, and Uber too.

But Alipay may be playing favorites. According to company SVP of business Emil Michael, Uber will be the primary featured transportation app on Alipay’s platform outside of the U.S. Alipay is essentially promoting Uber to its 450 million users.

“Our partnership with Uber is not in conflict with Lyft and Didi, as we are simply providing more options for our Alipay users,” Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial Services Group, said in a statement. “We will continue to look for more global partners to give Alipay users more scenarios for using the mobile app.”

This isn’t the first case of an investor flirting with both sides in the global ride-hail battle. Tiger Global, one of the largest shareholders in Ola, is also an investor in Didi and Grab. But much to the reported disappointment of other investors, the firm invested in Uber in December 2015.

The integration is a pretty clear move on Uber’s part to offset any advantage Lyft and Didi may have had in attracting Chinese travelers. Uber’s advantage, however, is that this feature is available in every market it operates in. While Lyft and Didi riders will be able to book rides on Grab and Ola’s platforms soon, their partnership only covers the U.S., China, India and Southeast Asia.

Uber will also be working with India’s payments app, Paytm, with which Alipay has been sharing its technologies.

For Chinese and Indian travelers, these partnerships now make it easier to hail an Uber globally without worrying about language barriers or using a dual-currency credit card.

Correction: A previous version of this article said Alibaba was Alipay’s parent company, not its affiliate company.

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