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e-CNY app Readies for Chinese, Foreigners Ahead of Winter Olympics Kickoff

The digital yuan (e-CNY) app is now reportedly available on iOS and Android app stores for members of the public to download ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics which will start on February 4 in Beijing.

According to a local report, the available app is China’s official offer to get individual users to try opening the digital currency’s wallet and manage it on their own as the planned public launch draws near. 

The global event has been rumoured to be the launch point for the much-awaited public rollout of the e-CNY which is expected, over time, to replace the physical form of the Chinese currency completely.

The report cites the listed developer of the central bank digital currency (CBDC) app as the Digital Currency Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China’s (PBoC) which has been known to be behind the development of the CBDC prototype.

It also notes that the app is only downloadable by users who are physically located in one of 11 locations: Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xiong’an, Chengdu, Shanghai, Hainan, Changsha, Xi’an, Qingdao, Dalian and the Winter Olympics area.

 

China’s e-CNY for Chinese and foreigners  

The past two years have seen the CBDC trialled by retailers like JD.com and across major Chinese cities. These include Shenzhen which, till the end of 2021, still issued about CNY25 million worth of e-CNY through six banks as part of the pilot scheme for a new year shopping carnival.  

It is left to be seen how the e-CNY use during the Winter Olympics would be “one of the most eye-catching” highlights of the global event, as the PBoC had earlier stated.

The apex bank had noted, considering all of the payment scenarios that have been put in place across the various venues, that the e-CNY could be used on the mobile wallet app or with physical wallets like cards and wearables such as smartwatches, ski gloves or badges at venues. It could be used to pay for various services including transportation, accommodation, shopping, healthcare and telecommunications.

Meanwhile, locals have been stirred up as well. Aside from the series of pilot testing already carried out across China, a 2021 Sina Institute for Financial Studies report that cited PBoC as source puts Chinese consumers’ financial literacy now to be above the global average – up 2.04 from 2019 to reach 66.81 in 2020. The onshore yuan’s strength has also been a topic of interest as it rallied to a three-year high against the dollar. 

These add to the rife speculation that the digital currency’s eventual rollout during the global event would garner huge momentum in China among locals and foreigners regardless of the data privacy concerns that have been and continue to be raised

 

e-CNY headed to Macau? 

It all coincides with Macau’s casino owners’ preparation to bid for new licenses in the autonomous region on the south coast of China for the first time in two decades. 

With indications to migrate the gaming hub to digital payments as Beijing is somewhat keen to have greater oversight of cash flows and customers, there are suggestions that Macau – the world’s largest gambling hub which generated revenue of about $36 billion in 2019 – could be the testbed for watchdogs to bring the e-CNY to casinos.

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