The digital Yuan is China's electronic currency. Also known as e-CNY or e-RMB or e-yuan, this currency stands in direct competition with cryptocurrencies, corporate payment systems, and mobile payment apps. Learn more about what it is and how it works.
What Is China's Cryptocurrency 'Digital Yuan'?
The digital yuan is a form of central bank digital currency, which is issued by the People's Bank of China (PBOC). China's digital currency is a means for China to digitize its banknotes and coins for cashless payments. Thus, digital yuan is a digitized version of the physical yuan.
It's important to understand the subtle distinction between the Chinese yuan vs. renminbi.
- Renminbi: the official currency of China
- Yuan: a basic unit of the renminbi; commonly used as a general term referring to China's currency in accounting for the country's economic system
How the Digital Yuan Works
The digital yuan works as a digitized version of the physical yuan. Thus, China's digital currency works the same as banknotes and coins, albeit in a digitized form. This means that the digital yuan may eventually replace physical cash as a means of payment.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) distributes digital yuan to banks in China, which are required to deposit an equal amount in reserves with the PBOC as the digital yuan they distribute to users or customers. Users can then store their digital yuan in digital wallets and use a QR code to make purchases with the digital currency.
The Digital Yuan vs. Cryptocurrency
Unlike cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC-USD), the digital Yuan is not an alternative currency, transactions are not completely anonymous, and it is intended to be used as legal tender in China. As such, digital currency in China will directly compete with businesses that rely on mobile payment systems.
Important: Significant differences exist between cryptocurrencies and the China digital currency. A cryptocurrency is a decentralized currency, meaning it is not issued by a central bank or backed by a federal government; whereas digital yuan is issued by the PBOC, China's central bank. Also, cryptocurrency enables anonymous transactions, whereas the China digital currency does not provide complete anonymity.
Digital Yuan Trial and Adoption
China's digital currency went into an early trial phase in 2020. Expanded pilot programs occurred during 2021, extending through 2022. Depending upon the success of the pilot programs, and the time it takes to work through any possible bugs in the system, the digital yuan is expected to be adopted in 2023 or 2024.
Conducted by the People's Bank of China, trials for the digital currency began in multiple cities in China, including Xiong'an, Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Chengdu. Pilot program expansions were planned for several other significant cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin, the Hebei Province, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Pros and Cons of the Digital Yuan
Pros of e-CNY
Consumer efficiencies: Rather than using multiple apps for various uses, such as transportation and multiple commercial transactions, consumers can use one digital currency.
Consumer savings: A digital yuan could potentially reduce or eliminate fee-based transactions for consumers, such as wiring and commercial apps.
Quality data collection: By digitally tracking transactions, the PBOC can more effectively collect economic data and compute statistics.
Crime detection and prevention: The ability to monitor transactions can help to prevent counterfeiting or the illegal flow of funds, such as terrorist financing or money laundering.
Cons of e-CNY
Lack of anonymity: Unlike the more popular forms of digital currency, the exchange of China's digital currency will not be anonymous, as the central bank and government of China will be able to monitor transactions.
Increased competition: While this can be an advantage for the Chinese government, the competition in mobile payments may threaten businesses, such as Alibaba (BABA) and Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY), that receive revenue from their digital payment services.
How To Invest In the Digital Yuan
The digital yuan is not available to non-Chinese citizens and investors are not able to directly buy or trade its digital currency. Since the digital yuan is simply a digitized version of the physical yuan, there are indirect ways for investors to invest in the China digital currency.
For example, to invest in the physical yuan, investors may purchase yuan directly and hold it in cash, buy yuan futures (read about stock futures here) or yuan forward contracts, or invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are designed to track the Chinese yuan.
China's digital yuan, also known as e-CNY or e-RMB, is a digitized version of the physical yuan. In simple terms, this digital currency is designed to be used in the place of legal notes and coins. The end goal of China's digital currency is to create a cashless system that can create consumer, commercial, and government efficiencies.
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