Digital Yuan Rollout for Olympic Visitors Follows Beta app Release
After its app reportedly recorded more than 16 million downloads in its first week of release, China has started rolling out the digital yuan (e-CNY) to athletes and spectators who are in the country for the Beijing Winter Olympic, public broadcaster CCTV has reported.
It is the first major test of the digital currency’s appeal amongst foreigners, the news outlet notes about the release which comes ahead of the global event’s scheduled start on February 4.
It says visitors can download the e-CNY app and make contactless transactions with it all through the Olympic Village as well as access money-changing vending machines to convert foreign currencies to e-CNY that could be loaded onto a temporary debit card.
“If the digital RMB is successfully applied during the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, it will help enhance its international image and expand its influence,” Dong Ximiao, chief researcher at Merchants Union Consumer Finance Company, told CCTV in the recent report. “Furthermore, with international cooperation on (the) legality of digital currencies, as well as shared information on digital currency research, development and supervision will help boost China’s participation in international financial governance.”
While the world’s second largest economy is set to showcase the e-CNY to the global audience during the Olympics, more e-CNY is expected to be issued after the event ends on February 20 as part of efforts to improve its growing ecosystem across China.
In October 2021, the number of individuals reported to have e-CNY accounts was 140 million. Zou Lan, head of financial markets at the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), disclosed at a press conference this week that the number nearly doubled to 261 million unique users at the end of 2021 – about one-fifth of China’s population.
Lan noted that more than eight million merchants were already accepting the digital currency as at the end of December and it had been used for transactions worth up to CNY87.6 billion (US$13.8 billion) over the same period, a considerable increase to the CNY62 billion transacted by october.
The beta version of the e-CNY app has since been launched for iOS and Android on their respective stores earlier in 2021 although for users in 12 Chinese cities for now. The launch was followed by Tencent’s WeChat announcing it will start accepting e-CNY as a payment option on its over-a-billion-user platform.
In his brief review of the e-CNY app, Richard Turrin, author of ‘Innovation Lab Excellence’ and ‘Cashless’, a book on China’s digital currency revolution, scored the application high.
He notes in a LinkedIn post that the new e-CNY app is “simply wonderful, and it’s not just me saying it. The app scored a 4.4 out of 5 in China’s Apple app store!” He highlights three major new features on the e-CNY app that could see it win over and capture some of the existing Alipay and WeChat Pay users.
The app offers unlimited spending limits for e-CNY wallets with the highest level of KYC unlike Alipay which tops at about CNY20,000, according to Turrin. It has the ability to set spending limits on the account as well as the sub-wallets – a money management feature that the payment platforms don’t have. It also boasts of an anonymity feature which guarantees that spending under CNY2000 (or $300) is anonymous – no payment platforms offer the same.