Chinese banks launch mobile wallets that let customers transact in digital yuan

Digital yuan in a mobile wallet on a smartphone
DIGITAL YUAN: China’s major banks are lining up to introduce digital wallets supporting the country’s CBDC Image: Li Hao/GT

At least eight major banks, including Hong Kong-based China CITIC Bank, have now introduced or are in the process of introducing digital wallets that support China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC), according to local media reports.

The news comes as the mayors of both Beijing and Shanghai announce that the two first-tier cities plan to host large-scale CBDC tests this year and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) launches its two largest ‘red envelope’ digital yuan giveaways to date, in the cities of Chengdu and Suzhou.

Increased bank support

The six major banks already supporting the development of the digital yuan — Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of Communications and Postal Savings Bank of China — have now been joined by China Merchants Bank as well as Hong Kong-based China CITIC Bank, according to a local media report.

“The six major banks have their own digital renminbi wallet apps,” the report states.

“For example, the digital renminbi wallet app of the Agricultural Bank is called ABC-Android, and the digital renminbi wallet app of China Construction Bank is called Panda.”

“The digital RMB APP (Panda) issued by China Construction Bank not only supports the Construction Bank card, but also supports the binding of the bank cards of eight banks, including China Merchants Bank,” the report adds.

“The Agricultural Bank’s digital renminbi wallet supports the binding of six (without China Merchants and CITIC).”

The Agricultural Bank of China began testing ATMs that support digital yuan in Shenzhen earlier this month.

Beijing and Shanghai tests

Plans to expand pilots of digital yuan in Beijing and Shanghai also emerged over the weekend.

“Beijing mayor Chen Jining said on Sunday that the capital will accelerate the building of innovative demonstration zones for fintech and professional services in 2021, and it will promote the pilot application of the digital currency,” the state-run Global Times reports.

“Shanghai mayor Gong Zheng said on Sunday, when delivering a government work report, that the city will continue financial opening-up and the promotion of the digital currency.”

Both Beijing and Shanghai hosted small scale tests of NFC-enabled digital yuan payments using a ‘hard wallet’ smart card and wearables earlier in January.

Chengdu and Suzhou red envelope giveaways

PBOC has also now launched red envelope giveaways in the cities of Chengdu and Suzhou.

The giveaways in both cities will see 40m digital yuan (US$6.17m) distributed in Suzhou and 50m digital yuan (US$7.7m) distributed in a month-long two-stage giveaway in Chengdu.

“It is worth noting that this time, Chengdu’s digital renminbi red envelopes total 50m yuan, the government issuing 30m red envelopes for offline consumption, and JD.com distributing 20m red envelopes for online consumption,” according to a Sina report.

“Digital renminbi red envelopes from Chengdu and Suzhou come one after another, and it is understood that red envelope activities will follow during the year,” Sina adds.

“The digital renminbi test has become normalised and the pace of advancement has been accelerated.”

PBOC launched the third digital yuan giveaway to be held in the city of Shenzhen — its fourth in total — this week.

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