Chinese electronic signature industry on fast track

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An official with the market regulation bureau of Lianyun district, Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province ships a business license to an enterprise that applied for the document online, Feb. 17, 2020. (Photo by Wang Chun/People's Daily Online)
An official with the market regulation bureau of Lianyun district, Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province ships a business license to an enterprise that applied for the document online, Feb. 17, 2020. (Photo by Wang Chun/People's Daily Online)

By Han Xin

As an important tool for digital transformation, electronic signature technology is widely applied by various industries in China.

With electronic signature technology, a test drive can be scheduled online, real estate contracts can be registered with an electronic signature service, and financial products can be purchased on online platforms.

Electronic signature is a way of confirming and signing electronic documents in electronic forms based on the Internet. Over the recent years, the electronic signature industry has rapidly grown in China, releasing huge development potential.

For instance, electronic stamp, an efficient and reliable way that has the same legal validity as physical stamps, was used in a power supply company in Fuyang district, Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province. According to an employee of the company, the application of electronic stamps is expected to save over a million yuan ($140,017) for the company each year.

Electronic signature technology benefits not only enterprises, but also individuals. At the end of June this year, Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu province comprehensively launched electronic signature services for real estate transactions. House buyers can sign their names on a mobile application or a mini program to have their contracts registered.

“Electronic signature verifies identities with biometrics, bank card information and other authentication methods. It makes sure that contracts represent the will of signatories through login encryption, SMS verification and other approaches. Besides, it employs timestamp technology so that the signing is traceable and irreversible,” said Liu Quan, director of the research institute of cyber security under the China Center for Information Industry Development (CCID).

With these technologies employed, contracts and agreements can be inked even if parties involved are at different locations, and counterfeit signatures would no longer be a problem. Liu added.

Over the recent years, electronic signature has seen a stable expansion of its market in China and has been applied in a number of sectors such as finance, e-government, healthcare and real estate.

According to a CCID report, the market size of electronic signature in China had grown from 22 billion yuan in 2017 to 30.86 billion yuan in 2021.

“In general, electronic signature has gained a big market in China. Its industrial chain is being improved. The providers of software and hardware as well as electronic signature services, terminal users, and other entities in the industry are growing rapidly,” said Liu.

The rapid development of the industry is attributed to many aspects. On the one hand, policy support and mature technologies have paved a path for the normalized application of electronic signature. On the other hand, enterprises’ increasing demand for digital transformation has constantly released the potential of the industry.
Li Tao, an employee of a major company, told People’s Daily that the implementation of paperless offices could save the company 320,000 pieces of paper each year, and electronic signature as well as other digital tools have improved the company’s efficiency amid COVID-19.

According to statistics released by iiMedia Research, a world-renowned third-party data mining and analysis organization for new economic industries, electronic signatures were used over 50 billion times in China in 2020, surging 317 percent from a year ago.

As electronic signatures are more and more utilized and gain increasing recognition from users, the industry will embrace constant growth.

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