Earlier this month, China announced its digital yuan wallet app was up for download and that the pilot version was available only to users in ten areas including Shanghai and Beijing. Users could only previously access the app on an invitation-only basis. The app can now be downloaded by anyone as the country seeks to widen the adoption of the currency.
The e-yuan app has garnered 261 million users, one-fifth of the country’s population and transactions worth 87.5 billion yuan have been made using the central bank digital currency. These figures were announced at a Tuesday press event by Zou Lan, the Head of Financial Markets at the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). As the name implies, central bank digital currencies are owned, issued and controlled by a country’s central bank. They are digital, virtual or electronic versions of a country’s currency. In other words, they are digital, electronic or virtual representations of a country’s national currency.
China has been developing and testing the digital yuan over the last two years in various major cities. At first, a lottery system was used to determine early users before it was open to people in ten locations around the country. It is pertinent to know that the e-yuan is not a cryptocurrency and that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin remain banned in China.
With the e-yuan, China wants to diversify the options of cash provided to members of the public by the central bank, increase financial inclusion as well as satisfy people’s hunger for digital currencies, support fair competition, efficiency and safety of retail payment services, and improve cross-border payments.
People can easily download the digital yuan wallet app via Google’s Android Play Store or on iOS via App Store but only users in a list of pilot cities and at the imminent Winter Olympics venue can actually sign up, fund their accounts and spend the digital currency. The e-yuan is already in use and can be used on platforms like Alibaba and to pay cab fares on Didi.
People can easily switch cash to digital currency by moving money from authorized commercial banks and digital-only banks such as Tencent-backed WeBank and Ant-backed MyBank.