Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China distributes its digital yuan to athletes and spectators, the first significant test of the virtual currency's attractiveness among foreigners.
With less than a month until the games begin, China hopes to utilize the Olympics to demonstrate the digital yuan's worldwide influence, despite diplomatic boycotts and the fear of virus breakouts.
According to the Bank of China Ltd., a state lender and official partner of the games, visitors may download an app or acquire a physical card that saves the digital yuan or convert foreign bank notes into e-CNY at self-service machines.
Wristbands that operate as e-wallets that may be swiped to pay for products or services are available to athletes and their coaches.
Given the heightened political tensions surrounding the games and concerns over data security, whether international athletes accept the digital yuan remains to be seen. Three Republican senators in the United States asked the United States Olympic Committee in July to prohibit American athletes from using the digital yuan, citing worries about espionage and data security.
Nevertheless, a promotional movie aired on a giant screen to display the electronic money at one of the BOC's branches in Beijing's Olympic Village on a recent morning.
Convenience stores, cafés, and other merchants inside the Olympic Village, where athletes will live and spend their spare time, as well as businesses at train stations near the game sites, are fitted out with machines that accept digital yuan payment.
Payment would be limited to a few methods, according to Qu Songming, a manager of the Olympic Village's operations team in Beijing. Alipay from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and WeChat Pay from Tencent Holdings Ltd., both of which support e-CNY, will not be available in the village.
"During the Olympics, the sole payment options are renminbi cash, Visa cards, and the digital yuan at all competition and non-competition venues," Qu explained. The games are sponsored by Visa Inc.
The Winter Olympics, which begin on February 4, are considered as a chance for the People's Bank of China to promote awareness of the e-CNY, which has been trialed in approximately a dozen areas across the country since 2020.
According to officials, a total of 140 million people had signed up for a digital yuan account by early November. However, locals still mostly use Alipay and WeChat Pay for daily transactions. Tencent debuted e-CNY services on WeChat this week, and both applications now accept digital yuan payments. JD.com Inc., Trip.com Group Ltd., and Meituan also are a few of the other Internet behemoths that take e-CNY.
Before the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, China might push for widespread adoption of the digital yuan for domestic use. In the long run, the e-adoption yuan's in Hong Kong and by trading partners might help the yuan to increase its standing as a worldwide reserve and settlement currency.
Although the PBOC has not set a date for the digital currency's formal launch, it took a step toward that objective last week by publishing a test version of the digital yuan app on the iOS and Android app stores. Trial zone residents can download the app and create an account.
People may transfer money from their bank accounts to the e-wallet and make or receive payments by scanning a QR code or touching their phone on a payment gadget using the software. Consumers could previously only acquire a private link to download the e-wallet from bank employees when they applied for an account.
The app will be made available to foreigners for the first time, according to the Bank of China, giving an important test of its services.
"Ensuring that international tourists have a positive experience with the digital yuan is a crucial goal and challenge," the bank said in a statement. "We'll do our best to guarantee that services are available during the game, and our operations, customer service, emergency response, and other teams are all practicing and preparing extensively."
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