For millions of Chinese people living in the “10+1” pilot cities trialing the digital yuan, the Year of the Tiger is off to a lucrative start, with companies on an adoption drive that is seeing them slash prices for digital CNY customers, give away tokens and more.
The busy Lunar New Year period, also known as the Spring Festival, is traditionally a time when Chinese firms hope to ramp up sales, with much of the country off work and with plenty of free time on its hands.
The central People’s Bank of China (PBoC), which has been working on its digital yuan rollout plans since 2014 has stepped up its own adoption efforts with its commercial partners – including many state-owned firms, who have been pushing digital CNY custom over the Lunar New Year holidays.
The PBoC has refused to set a timeline on a national rollout, but should the latest leg of the pilot continue to prove successful, some observers say, a countrywide rollout could well follow sometime this year.
Per JRJ, six of the nation’s biggest commercial banks, including the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, and the Postal Savings Bank of China, have issued a total of just under USD 4m worth of coins to customers that can be spent in supermarkets, restaurants and leisure venues in cities such as Shenzhen.
In Chengdu’s Xinjin District, meanwhile, authorities have distributed 26,900 digital CNY “red envelopes.” Red symbolizes good luck in China and employers and senior family members typically give these envelopes – containing money – to junior staff and relatives over the holiday period.
These envelopes contain either digital CNY funds worth 66 yuan (around USD 10) or 88 yuan (about USD 13). Both six and eight are considered to be lucky numbers in China.
The Bank of China and the food delivery giant Meituan have also jointly created a digital CNY “Spring Festival red envelope card” that is “based on digital CNY hard wallet technology.” These cards can be either redeemed online via the Meituan platform or used offline at participating merchants.
The state-owned People’s Daily, meanwhile, reported that some firms are rolling out “wearable digital renminbi wallets,” such as “glove wallets,” aimed to “meet the needs of winter sports enthusiasts.
The media outlet explained:
“At ski resorts or ice skating rinks, athletes and tourists can wear glove wallets that let them complete digital yuan payments with a single touch.”
Similar wristband-like wearable digital yuan wallets have been made available to athletes, journalists, and coaches at the Winter Olympics, which officially get underway in Beijing on Friday this week.
Yicai reported that, per Meituan, 90% of the giveaway tokens have been used to pay for takeaway food, grocery shopping, and restaurant bills, with most favoring to use the token to pay for “small transactions” worth USD 4.50 or less.
The same media outlet carried testimonies from digital yuan users who claimed they had used the token to pay for movie tickets and food deliveries for items such as dumplings.
The media outlets carried photographs of a range of hard wallets – offline cards that resemble bank cards, but have a small LCD window in a corner of the card that shows the wallet’s remaining balance.
These have mainly been issued by major state-owned commercial banks thus far, and NFC technology allows them to be used in subway stations, buses, and other forms of public transport in the pilot zones.