Smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp has joined China’s fast-growing online mutual aid industry, with the launch on Monday of a crowdfunding health care platform to rival those from other major technology companies. The platform called Xiaomi Huzhu is now open for preregistration on the mainland, according to a company announcement. This business is run by Xiaomi Finance, the smartphone vendor’s financial technology arm, which will make the platform available from its app and official WeChat account from next Monday. People can join the platform with no up-front fee and claim up to 500,000 yuan (US$70,647) for critical illnesses, including 82 major diseases and 10 serious ailments specific to children. Members also receive round-the-clock, real-time online medical consultation seven days a week, according to a Xiaomi statement. Although it remains unclear how much revenue Xiaomi’s foray into the online mutual aid market could generate, its internet services business segment – mainly composed of fintech and gaming – grew 5.1 per cent year on year to 2.5 billion yuan in the March quarter . A spokeswoman for Hong Kong-listed Xiaomi, the world’s fourth largest smartphone vendor, had no further comment on Tuesday when asked how this operation would contribute to the company’s internet services business segment. Subscribers to online mutual aid platforms in China are expected to reach 450 million by 2025, according to a white paper released by Alipay operator Ant Financial Services in May. Mutual aid platforms, which operate as a collective claim-sharing mechanism that offer basic health plans to assist those facing critical illnesses, are popular among China’s low- and middle-income households in rural areas, where there is often a lack of quality hospitals and affordable medical care. Members of mutual aid platforms share the cost of a claim only when it has been verified – so a 1,000 yuan claim for medical treatment by a person would end up as a cost of 1 yuan each for a pool of 1,000 people in such a scheme. Platform operators typically charge a fee to members when collecting for a claim. Mutual aid plans are not technically insurance, as payouts are not provided by the company, and are therefore not subject to regulations from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. The Ant Financial white paper was based on a survey of more than 58,000 users, with the majority living in small cities and rural areas, earning less than 8,333 yuan per month. Ant Financial is part of the digital ecosystem of Alibaba Group Holding, which is the parent company of the South China Morning Post . Chinese internet giants target 450 million users with online health care plans by 2025 Online mutual aid platforms have become a “complementary force” in China’s health care system, according to Zheng Bingwen, director of the World Social Security Centre at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and an adviser on the white paper. The reimbursement rate for serious diseases under China’s public health care system is capped at 60 per cent, leaving patients to pay the balance themselves, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. At present, China has dozens of online mutual aid platforms, with the three biggest players each having more than 10 million members. Major players include Ant Financial’s Xiang Hu Bao as well as Waterdrop Mutual and Easy Mutual, both backed by Tencent Holdings. Last year, large internet companies including Baidu, Meituan Dianping, Didi Chuxing, JD.com, Qihoo 360 and Suning.com introduced their respective online mutual aid platforms. Sign up now for a 50% early bird discount on the 100+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, which includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6 webinars with C-level executives. Offer valid until 30 June 2020.