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Beijing to bypass US systems with e-RMB drive

China has made a head start in the global race to research and launch a full digital currency, with some civil servants in a few pilot cities including Shenzhen, Suzhou and Chengdu getting half their pay in the form of the e-RMB.

Internal testing and trials spearheaded by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) have long been underway, with the central bank aiming for a wider roll-out for athletes, spectators and journalists at the 2022 Winter Olympics, when Beijing and the many towns near the venues will go fully paperless in all transactions. 

The PBoC’s top-down push for the e-RMB is not intended to give China’s omnipresent WeChat Pay and AliPay a good run for their money or even supersede the duopoly of the two digital payment platforms, the cash cows of Chinese tech behemoths Tencent and Alibaba.

Rather, the e-RMB is part of Beijing’s imperative to safeguard currency sovereignty and promote the Chinese yuan beyond its borders. 

When Facebook unveiled its Libra blockchain digital currency, otherwise known as the “Facebook coin,” in June 2019 to promote its stable, low inflation and freely-convertible cryptocurrency for worldwide transactions and transfers, the move piqued the interest of PBoC chief Yi Gang.

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