Shanghai, Nov 11 :China’s smartphone-wielding masses unleashed billions of dollars in e-commerce spending Saturday as they rushed to snap up bargains on “Singles Day”, billed as the world’s biggest one-day online shopping festival. Also known as “Double 11” for the November 11 date, the event launched in 2009 by e-commerce giant Alibaba kicked off at midnight and ended up shattering the previous year’s sales mark, as it does every year. Alibaba said that by midday Saturday the gross value of sales processed by Alipay, its online payment system, had equalled the $17.8 billion logged over the full 24 hours last year. The 2016 amount was itself a 32 percent increase over the previous year and equal to the annual economic output of Mozambique. The yearly display of rising Chinese consumer spending power has become a key date for manufacturers and retailers in the country, accounting for a significant share of annual orders for many businesses. Alibaba rivals such as JD.com and a range of retailers have joined in, with merchants slashing prices to move goods. Five minutes after midnight, Alipay was processing 256,000 payment transactions per second, doubling last year’s high-water mark, Alibaba said. “At 12:07:23 am, the number of payment transactions processed by Alipay surpassed 100 million, equivalent to the total number of payment transactions processed during 2012,” it said.