China Counts CBDC in Monetary Base Supply for First Time

For the first time ever, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has included its central bank digital currency (CBDC) in official cash reports.

China’s digital yuan, otherwise known as e-CNY, amounted to 13.61 billion yuan (roughly $2 billion) by the end of December, per official figures reviewed by the South China Morning Post.

That reportedly converts to 0.13% of China’s outstanding monetary base supply.

Announced in 2019 and launched for public testing in April 2021, China’s CBDC has made its way into 26 different cities and into the hands of 5.6 million merchants.

Unlike bitcoin and ether, the digital yuan does not run on a blockchain or distributed ledger, and should not be considered anything similar to decentralized cryptocurrency, or even stablecoins such as tether and USDC.

It is money issued by the government via centralized technical underpinnings more akin to traditional, fiat-powered payment apps such as Apple Pay.

Late last year, the Bank of China in Hong Kong offered 500 customers the opportunity to open trial accounts, where they would receive 100 e-CNY to spend in different stores across the mainland and at local supermarket chains. 

The scheme received much interest and accounts were snatched within two days. Another stunt included “red packet” lottery giveaways amounting to 40 million digital yuan ($6.2 million). 

The PBOC in October claimed to have processed more than 100 billion yuan ($13.9 billion) in CBDC transactions, although those figures cannot be independently verified.

It’s still unclear how e-CNY will influence China’s online payments space and monetary policies. Beijing has been actively experimenting with how to implement the CBDC at scale.

China’s push for CBDC adoption has been tied to plans for more dominant currency when transacting with foreign countries, and hypothetically boosting the yuan’s position as a potential reserve asset.

David Canellis contributed reporting.

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