China moving ahead in development of digital currencies
WHAT'S THE ISSUE?
Dozens of central banks around the world are now experimenting with their own national digital currencies. But the country farthest down the road to providing consumers with a truly digital option that they can actually use to buy things is China, where the DECP or e-yuan is already being trialed ready to roll out in time for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
MEET THE EXPERT
Here, Zhou Yong, assistant general manager of XW Bank, based in Chengdu in Sichuan province, joins The Agenda with Stephen Cole to discuss how it works, and how China is setting the global standard.
As part of his role as the head of technology, architecture and the bank's new tech center, his research focuses on new technology including cloud computing, blockchain, AI and big data.
WHAT DOES ZHOU SAY?
China may be farther ahead with its digital currency than any other country, but Zhou Yong thinks there may never be a truly global digital currency:
"Every market is different, every law is different," he says. "I do hope China will set a very good example for countries coming forward, but I don't know if there is going to be a single global standard."
But, he says, there are real benefits to digital currency: "It's faster, it's cheaper, it's transparent and it's more fitted to the digital ecosystem."
He also said that from a financial inclusion point of view it is better, because there is no need to have internet access – and even if someone does not have a deposit account, they can have a digital wallet if they have a mobile phone or an ID card, with payments able to be made from phone to phone.
Zhou thinks China's digital currency can be a real benefit to the consumer – especially in areas of so-called internet poverty: "I think the key advantage is that you can make a payment, even if there is no internet connection."
But he also points out that it will be some time, if ever, before a national digital currency replaces existing digital payment schemes like WeChat Pay or Alipay: "We have to protect our investments."
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