China is expanding the use cases for its central bank digital currency (CBDC), the digital yuan, also known as e-CNY, to promote cross-border trade in its Belt and Road initiative. The digital yuan was one of the first CBDCs to be developed and widely tested, with the government having expanded its testing parameter to include multiple cities and millions of people.
Xuzhou, a trade hub in Jiangsu province, plans to promote the use of e-CNY to pay for services and storage charges for goods carried by cross-border trains, according to a plan promoting the use of the Chinese digital currency in cross-border trade that was issued in the city. There are 18 regular cross-border rail connections from Xuzhou to 21 nations in Asia and Europe, making it an ideal location to pilot the use of e-CNY in cross-border payments.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is also testing the digital yuan as a cross-border payment tool in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. “The HKMA is working with mainland’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, to test the digital yuan as a cross-border payment tool in Hong Kong,” said HKMA deputy chief executive Darryl Chan. The Chinese government hopes to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of cross-border transactions with these pilot projects.
Jiangsu province has been proactive in promoting digital yuan use cases, with Changshu, another city in the province, announcing that it will pay civil servants and people who work for public institutions using digital yuan. The Chinese government has ramped up its CBDC efforts at a time when the international trade markets are moving away from the standard U.S. dollar. Recently, China has completed multiple trade treaties with the likes of Russia and India based on their national currency over the U.S. dollar.
While the digital yuan has not yet been officially launched, the government’s efforts to test and expand its usage suggest that it is moving closer to a launch. The expansion of the digital yuan’s use cases for cross-border trade is part of a broader trend towards the digitalization of currencies, with other countries also exploring the use of CBDCs. China’s efforts in this area may give it a competitive advantage in the international trade markets, particularly as countries seek to diversify away from the U.S. dollar.
In addition to its use in cross-border trade, the digital yuan may also have implications for domestic payments in China. The Chinese government plans to use the digital yuan to reduce its dependence on the traditional banking system and to increase financial inclusion for those who are currently unbanked. The success of the digital yuan could also help China to expand its economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, as other countries adopt its use in cross-border trade and potentially even domestic payments.