Beijing digital currency push winter visa

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Yet given the monopoly of the country’s third-party mobile payment providers—Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay—the PBOC is now pushing the boundaries of its digital yuan, or the e-CYN, to reach new clients.A worker at the front desk of Prince Ski Town Hotel checks a phone behind a sign saying “digital renminbi (e-CNY) is accepted” in Zhangjiakou, China, on Dec. 4, 2021. (Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

The country recently launched a trial-run “e-CNY” app ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, paving the way for an international debut of its central bank digital currency.

It is the first time that transactions over digital yuan have been available to non-Chinese users.

For decades, Visa has been the exclusive electronic payments provider at the Olympics. However, this year, America’s largest card network is competing with China’s digital currency, the e-CNY, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The Olympics have usually only permitted Visa cards or cash as forms of payment in the event, with those attending mostly preferring Visa over cash.
The Beijing 2022 Olympics, however, has added one more form of payment: the e-CNY.

China has massively adopted digital payments such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, making physical cash almost obsolete. Since 2019, the Chinese government has been conducting small-scale trials for its digital tender, recording $1.5 bn in transactions by 2021.
The 2022 Olympics are serving as the e-CNY’s largest pilot test.

Beijing digital currency push winter visage

The cumulative amount of digital yuan transactions was 87.5 billion yuan (about ¥1.6 trillion) at the end of 2021, but this was only 0.02% of the transaction value of mobile payment services in 2020.

During the Games, e-CNY use in Beijing has been limited to areas inside the bubble, such as Olympic venues, as well as certain stores and designated services.

The WeChat messaging app and Alipay, which handles asset management, have established payment apps that are essential to daily life in China. Those apps also have many other features, giving users few reasons to opt for using e-CNY just for payments.

“WeChat Pay seems to be enough,” said a reporter who belongs to China’s state-run media.

There are also concerns that what and where people buy can be tracked by Chinese authorities.

Beijing digital currency push winter visan

European Central Bank Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau, for example, expressed such worries, saying that China’s rapid progress in developing the digital yuan poses a risk to the euro’s monetary sovereignty. He urged European policymakers to accelerate their own digital currency plans.

Experts acknowledged that China has taken the lead in digital currency push, given the country’s rapid development of informatization industries such as 5G, e-commerce and social network platforms that provide a myriad of application scenarios.


But the country still needs to do more research on digital currency technologies to reinforce its advantages.

Beijing digital currency push winter visas

Last November, the PBOC claimed it collects information on a “minimum and necessary” basis in e-CNY applications, and strictly controls the storage and usage of personal information.

Yet Erik Bethel, a former U.S. representative of the World Bank, called it a surveillance tool “disguised as a payment mechanism,” during an interview with EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program.

Some cautioned the digital system would feed China’s control over the flow and exchange of money, as authorities have the ability to monitor, freeze, and close accounts of citizens and private companies.

“The digitization of the RMB is precisely an anti-decentralization and anti-free money measure introduced by the Chinese Communist Party,” a mainland China Bitcoin researcher told The Epoch Times on Feb.

Pilot versions of its digital yuan wallet application appeared online in the Chinese Android and Apple app stores on Jan. 4.

A venture capitalist in Beijing surnamed Zhou, however, said the new app would unlikely beat similar products at the current stage, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, given their strong foothold.

“Why would they change the way they’ve used to pay?” he said. “It gives you no other benefits.”

Huang (a pseudonym), a Shenzhen citizen, said neither he nor his acquaintances use the app. “For me, it is nothing better than Alipay and WeChat Pay,” he told The Epoch Times on Feb. 20.

A Chinese customer uses his mobile to pay via a QR code with the WeChat app at a local market in Beijing on Sept. 19, 2020.
CNY.

To pay in the digital currency, the official smartphone app or a physical e-CNY card can be used.

China is trying to show off to the world that the country’s digital currency is in the stage of practical use, but private smartphone payment systems are already widespread within the country, making it difficult to expand use of e-CNY.

“It feels the same as using WeChat Pay or other such systems,” said a 21-year-old female university student Saturday who volunteered for the Beijing Olympics, referring to a popular smartphone payment system in China.

She had just bought Olympic goods with digital yuan at an official shop in the Main Media Center in Beijing.

To pay via the official app, users need to select a bank that supports the e-CNY service, then register their mobile phone number and password, before charging the digital yuan in advance.

Authorities banned both tech-firm-run competitors WeChat and Alipay in the Olympic Village during foreign athletes’ stay, limiting transactions to cash, Visa cards, and e-CNY.

Concerns

“By promoting e-CNY to an international audience,” said Corr, “Beijing is trying to socialize its currency as something new and innovative to encourage the global public to take it up.”

Participants of the 2022 Games, including international athletes, coaches, and media, spent at least 2 million yuan ($315,761) a day in digital currency, said Mu Changchun, the top official at the Chinese central bank.

University of China, said that the use of the digital yuan will expand from sporadic retail scenarios to broader applications, including cross-border payments.

“For example, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will likely become the first scenario for digital yuan to be used in large-scale cross-border payments,” Liu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

While the digital yuan is being pushed, the global digital currency race is also speeding up. The Monetary Authority of Singapore launched a challenge to seek retail central bank digital currency solutions on Monday, three weeks after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority announced plans to study the feasibility of a digital currency in 2022.

Apart from broader digitalization of life through technology, many countries are worried that their currencies’ international role could weaken amid the rise of foreign digital currencies.

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