PBOC expands digital yuan pilot to more areas as Asian Games approach

PBOC digital yuan lottery
A sign indicating digital yuan, also referred to as e-CNY, iat a shopping mall in Shanghai, China May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), said on Saturday it will further expand a pilot scheme of its digital currency to more areas, including cities in the eastern Zhejiang province which is set to host the Asian Games later this year.

The PBOC said it will promote the research and development of the digital currency, dubbed e-CNY, and expand the scope of the pilot scheme, according to an online statement.

Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen and six cities in the coastal Zhejiang province will be added to the existing 10 major “pilot” cities to test the use e-CNY, it said.

The six cities in Zhejiang, which included the provincial capital of Hangzhou, will host the Asian Games in September.

The PBOC has ramped up testing of the digital currency in recent years and hoped to take advantage of the Beijing Winter Olympics as an opportunity to promote the yuan globalisation. Athletes, coaches and media were able to use e-CNY via smartphone apps, physical payment cards or wristbands.

In February, Mu Changchun, director-general of the PBOC’s Digital Currency Research Institute, said during a webinar arranged by the Atlantic Council that the e-CNY was being used to make 2 million yuan ($315,761) or more of payments a day at the Winter Olympics.

He said there was also no breakdown yet of the share of transactions being made by Chinese nationals and international attendees, although some clear trends had emerged.

However, Beijing’s aim to make an Olympic splash with the e-CNY was thwarted by a COVID 19-induced exclusion of foreign spectators. Instead, it has been taken up by a captive audience of locals unable to use their usual digital payment apps.

The PBOC statement also said Beijing and Zhangjiakou, which co-hosted the Winter Games in February, will also become e-CNY’s pilot cities.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Ryan Woo; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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