The e-yuan, China’s official virtual currency, is being showcased to and used by foreign athletes and visitors at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Along with cash and Visa cards, the digital yuan is one of three forms of payment options available to foreigners and Chinese nationals alike at the Olympic Village.
Foreign guests can use electronic yuan to buy items by downloading a test application exclusively designed for it or opening a digital-yuan hard wallet.
Available on major mobile Android app stores and Apple’s App Store in China, the e-yuan app can be downloaded by a search of keywords such as 数字人民币 and ecny.
It supports mobile phone number registration and digital wallet opening for foreigners coming from nearly 100 countries and regions participating in the Winter Olympics, according to the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank.
At the Winter Olympic Village, consumers can use an e-yuan hard wallet to “touch” POS machines to make payments.
For small amount payments, there is no need for foreigners to open a Chinese domestic bank account, as registration of the simplest model of the digital yuan wallet requires just a cell phone number. Users can also keep themselves anonymous from the banks which provide e-yuan services.
Currently, four types of user category are available, and customers can decide how much information to share with the digital wallet app.
Alternatively, foreign tourists can apply for digital-yuan hard wallets – devices with a SIM card that can transact in e-yuan without a mobile network thanks to near-field communication technology.
One of the most important features of the digital yuan is its network-less payment system, the central bank has said.
Consumers can obtain and open e-yuan hard wallets at outlets of the Bank of China, hard wallet self-service exchange machines and designated hotels among other channels.
Hard wallets come in forms such as smart cards or bracelets.
At the National Stadium, a Bank of China officer shows an overseas guest how to use the digital yuan.
Of note, a tap-to-manage function in the e-yuan app can help holders interconnect their e-wallets and hard wallets. With the function, users can set the payment password, query the transaction amount, available balance and make recharges.
A front-runner in the development of central bank digital currencies, China began exploring the concept of a sovereign digital currency in 2014 and trials of the digital yuan began in May 2020.
In mid-January, a senior official at China’s central bank announced that more than 261 million individual users nationwide had registered a digital yuan wallet.