China’s central People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has claimed over 261m users in the nation activated digital yuan wallets by the end of last year – in addition to the 20 million-plus who have downloaded its official pilot app, which was released to marketplaces in some cities earlier this month.
In addition to the PBoC’s app, some nine commercial banks, some state-owned and other private financial entities owned by the likes of Tencent’s WeChat Pay and the e-commerce giant Alibaba, currently offer digital yuan wallets – although only people located in the pilot zones can access them.
The pilot zones include economic and tech powerhouse cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Chengdu, as well as parts of the capital Beijing.
The PBoC made the announcement at a press conference chaired by Zou Lan, its director of financial markets, reported Xinmin.
Zou Lan explained that over 8m merchants had already adopted digital yuan payment capabilities by the end of December last year. The token, also known as the e-CNY, was used in transactions worth a total of USD 13.8bn.
Since then, however, a number of heavyweight businesses have added digital CNY payment capabilities, including three major airlines, the most recent of which was Chinese Southern.
The bank once again refused to put a timeline on a full national rollout, although foreign visitors will get the chance to use the token for the first time in a fortnight’s time – when international athletes at the Olympic Village in Beijing are invited to use digital yuan-compatible smartphone apps and wristbands.
Instead, Zou Lan explained that the PBoC was now aiming to “further deepen the pilot,” extending its use to “retail transactions, government services, and other scenarios.” The official stated that the “research and development of the digital yuan” was still ongoing, but that its presence would soon be felt in the “real economy” and would provide a boost to industrial sectors.
In Chengdu, meanwhile, digital CNY adoption is now in full swing, reported Scol. In the city, the takeaway food delivery platform Meituan is working in conjunction with the Bank of China (one of the country’s biggest commercial, state-owned banks) on a promotional offer that rewards digital yuan-paying customers with e-CNY cashbacks and handouts of up to USD 6.30 on “low-carbon consumption” orders.
The report noted that using the offer, customers were able to use the platform and the funds to hire bicycles, get plastic-free food deliveries and make online purchases of train tickets using their cashback or giveaway tokens.