It's raining money in China as its biggest internet companies battle over Chinese New Year

China fireworks lunar new yearREUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonDancers perform a fire dragon dance in a shower of molten iron spewing firework-like sparks during a folk art performance to celebrate the traditional Chinese Spring Festival at an amusement park in Beijing February 10, 2013.

The Chinese Lunar New Year couldn’t come sooner for mobile app users in China.

In a battle for supremacy in China’s mobile payments industry, internet giants Alibaba and Tencent are giving out money in bunches this year.

Typically, relatives and friends hand each other red envelopes filled with cash during the Lunar New Year. Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, is taking this tradition to the next level. He posted on Weibo that he plans on handing out 1 million virtual red envelopes on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

But unlike in past years, company employees will not be receiving any red envelopes, since they have “not had exceptional results and not had any special surprises.”

Alibaba will be handing out around $US100 million in virtual red envelopes to users of its mobile payment app — Alipay — through the popular social media channels Weibo and Laiwang. In the spirit of competition, Tencent will be doling out over $US125 million during the same period to users of its WeChat and QQ messaging apps. Each virtual envelope will contain anywhere from a few cents to $US800.

Some people are concerned that these virtual red envelopes will lead to an increase of bribery in China, since it is harder to track who purchases and receives each gift. Others have expressed their scepticism about the deals, on Weibo, leading to Alibaba promising additional drawings.

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