The Chinese central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), is gearing up for what will be the biggest week yet for its digital yuan. And while the token remains officially in its pilot phase, it will be showcased to the world next week as the Winter Olympics begin. Domestic adoption plans will also go into overdrive – as the nation celebrates the Lunar New Year.
As reported, Beijing, which hosts the games (running from February 4 to February 20), has indicated that international athletes and their coaches will be invited to use the token in the Olympic Village and sites nearby – with special ATMs that can convert foreign banknotes into digital CNY holdings, wristbands, and smartphone apps.
Now, the state-run newspaper People’s Daily reported, the PBoC and its partner, the state-run commercial institution the Bank of China (also one of the games’ sponsors), say they are ready to come good on their promises.
The PBoC has been working closely with the Bank of China since the pilot began in earnest.
The People’s Daily quoted a Bank of China representative as stating:
“We are making every effort to prepare for the Winter Olympics under the guidance of the PBoC. During the Winter Olympics, the Bank of China will provide a full range of services such as [software-based] wallets, hard wallets, exchanges, top-ups and [cash] redemption at the Bank of China branch in the Olympic Village.”
The bank added that “all sales points” in the Winter Olympics areas (both in the capital and in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou – which will also host some events) now “accept the digital CNY.” NFC and QR code readers have been installed, the bank added, and “24/7” support would be made available “in multiple languages.”
Journalists and other officials would also be invited to make use of the digital token, the bank explained.
Overseas spectators, however, have been barred from the games due to China’s “zero-COVID-19” policy.
Per the Beijing Local Financial Supervision and Administration, the state-run Beijing News reported, “by the end of 2021,” the city has seen “more than 12m personal digital CNY wallets” opened, in addition to 1.3m wallets operated by businesses and public entities. Firms working in the food, housing, travel, shopping, entertainment, and medical sectors were among those creating accounts.
Meanwhile, the Lunar New Year celebrations, which get underway this weekend and conclude on February 2, will allow more merchants, banks, and partners to test their digital CNY adoption capacities in the “10+1” pilot city areas where the token has already been partially launched.
Companies in the city of Shenzhen – a major Chinese tech hub – have spent a cumulative USD 4m on promotional drives. These include an incentive that will allow travelers to take buses for a tiny nominal fee, provided that it is paid in digital CNY via a specific banking app. According to Sina, Shenzhen had “more than 300,000 digital CNY-accepting merchants” by the end of 2021.
A number of firms in the pilot areas will also offer “lucky red envelope”-themed offers, similar to prize draw events elsewhere in the world. During the Lunar New Year, older family members and employers often offer their juniors or employees red envelopes filled with cash to mark the occasion.